The trailers for “Cocaine Bear” say all you need to know about the film. A bear does cocaine, causing all hell to break loose. That’s all it is, and that’s all it needs to be.
While this film sounds strange, it’s based on a true story — well, sort of. The only event from the film that actually happened was that a bear did cocaine. The bear didn’t go on a murderous rampage afterward, she just got high off of some nose candy and went about her business until she died from a cocaine overdose — which makes sense, because she ingested over 70 pounds of it.
But honestly, who cares? The novelty of seeing a bear on speed tear through a bunch of unsuspecting corny characters is captivating on its own.
In many ways, the “crazy creature wreaks havoc” genre has been lost to time — at least in this sense.
Recently, we’ve been reaching for novel ultraviolence. “Violent Night” was a film about Santa Claus murdering a bunch of unsuspecting grunts to save Christmas. “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” is a tasteless adaptation where Winnie the Pooh goes on a murderous rampage. “Sharknado” takes the “Jaws” formula, multiplies it by 1000 and adds a tornado. It’s all far too over the top — it’s like we’ve become desensitized to a single goofy creature going crazy. “Cocaine Bear” is here to change that.
If you’re looking for something similar to “Sharknado,” you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find something close to a cross between The Ritz Brothers’ 1939 film “The Gorilla” and Eli Roth’s 2013 film “The Green Inferno.” It’s a silly concept condensed into a tight, palatable package with some grotesque violence added to it.
It’s hard to write a plot synopsis for Elizabeth Banks’ “Cocaine Bear.” There are at least 6 main characters, each with their own motivations. Basically, the plot revolves around a simple, but genius formula: Characters → Motivation → Cocaine Bear.
This formula works to great effect — I was grinning from ear to ear seeing these dumb characters get chased around by this coked-up bear. But it only works when it’s used.
Sari, played by Keri Russell, looks for her daughter, played by Brooklynn Prince, on “Blood Mountain” after the titular cocaine bear separates Sari’s daughter from her friend. She wants to rescue her daughter, and the bear interrupts her. Daveed and Eddie, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich, want to recover millions of dollars worth of cocaine for their boss, Syd, played by the late Ray Liotta. The bear interrupts them as well.
Far too often, “Cocaine Bear” cuts away to filler scenes where filler characters attempt to make jokes not related to the bear — which almost every single time aren’t nearly as funny as a bear on speed. The only character that made me laugh during these was Margo Martindale’s Ranger Liz — a flirtatious and trigger-happy park ranger who sucks at her job. She stole the screen whenever she graced it.
However, when “Cocaine Bear” leans into its own silliness and stays true to its name, it is unstoppable. While other movies run out of steam after the first half hour, this one keeps chugging until the end. The film has a respectable runtime of 95 minutes and stays interesting throughout.
Bottom line, if you like the title, then you’re going to like the movie. If you think ultraviolence is funny, then you’re going to like the movie. If you straight-up want to have a good time, then just go ahead and buy tickets. Despite its flaws, this bear will not disappoint.
Final Score: 8/10