Cocaine Bear (2023)
Cocaine Bear (2023)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: February 24th, 2023 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Elizabeth Banks Actors: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ayoola Smart, Brooklynn Prince

 


 

W

hen notorious drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton dumps 75 pounds of cocaine from a plane into the Chattahoochee National Forest – and then accidentally dies in the following parachute jump – he couldn’t have known the utter chaos his actions would cause. Upon discovering Thornton’s body and a portion of the narcotics, the authorities, including ambitious Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), head to the national park in an attempt to recover the rest. But the infamous trafficker responsible for collecting the illicit powder, Syd White (Ray Liotta), sends his son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and dealer Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to intercept the shipment first. Meanwhile, local nurse Sari’s (Keri Russell) rebellious thirteen-year-old daughter Deirdre (Brooklyn Prince) and her classmate Henry (Christian Convery) ditch school to hike to a waterfall hidden deep within the park and inadvertently uncover a packet of drugs themselves. Unbeknownst to all parties, however, is the 175-pound black bear that has obtained, and partaken, in the majority of the cocaine, promptly beginning a rampage through the forest, through backpackers and criminals, and through anyone else unfortunate enough to cross paths with the unhinged beast.

“Drugs, especially cocaine, are very, very bad.” Perhaps it’s pure coincidence that Elizabeth Banks, who happened to star in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” is once again involved in a project with a controversial word in the title, which might find parents having to explain to their young children what cocaine is (or perhaps it’s common knowledge among toddlers already). Either way, her latest project, which she produces and directs, is inspired by true events – though those events involved a bear merely overdosing on narcotics. Here, the poster artwork promises a suspenseful horror/thriller, while the theatrical trailer suggests that it will be more along the lines of “Pineapple Express” meets “Homeward Bound.”

“There’s something wrong with it.” Right from the start, the bear is cartoonish and slapstick-prone, even when it also engages in cheesy, grindhouse-styled bloodshed. And following this is the type of police-work one might find in “The Naked Gun.” Within the first few scenes, it’s evident that plenty of interested parties will be involved in the hunt for the drugs, which means there will be a decent potential for a high body count. Unfortunately, far too many characters enter the frame; halfway through the film, additional personas turn up, making the casualties greater but their significance remarkably less. Problematically, many of these roles are given incredibly generic dialogue or must participate in conspicuously silly conversations, such as when two young teens discuss the intricacies of cocaine use that sounds as unrealistic as the scripting in “Good Boys.”

“Bears are very peaceful creatures.” Amusingly, a wealth of death and destruction does occur, but when most of the roles are bland or unsympathetic, it works against the creativity of the violence. Backstories are complicated solely for the sake of padding an extremely simple premise, hoping to add comedy moments but revealing the triviality of a number of interactions. Virtually every scene with the drug dealers is needlessly wordy and not that funny at all; not only are they insincerely goofy, but their continual jokiness doesn’t engagingly contrast the furry nemesis. Too often the tone is incongruous; sequences of excessive carnage already possess the right amount of uncomfortable humor, without inconsequential characters chiming in for additional gags – many of which require flimsy computer graphics for physical comedy routines.

An apt soundtrack and ‘80s horror movie musical cues are the high point, along with jumpy scares and some hilariously brutal bear butchery, but the poor pacing and the excess of human fodder insist that there isn’t enough of a plot to stretch this ordeal out to feature length. Even some later flashbacks are bizarre and unnecessary rather than humorous, which is surely what was intended. Had “Cocaine Bear” been more like an extended twist on the most memorable component of “The Revenant,” sprinkling in laughs through the editing of gruesome attacks, or had it leaned heavier into the absurdness of some of its lighter knockabout-comedy ideas, it might have been more entertaining. As it is, the tonal shifts and inconsistencies demonstrate a glaring topsy-turvyness in its design.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10