Cocaine Bear review: Comedic B-movie inspired trash of the finest cut

Cocaine bear from the movie Cocaine Bear.
Cocaine bear from the movie Cocaine Bear. Pic credit: Universal Pictures

Cocaine Bear opens with an informative fact about bears, detailing the message that bears rarely attack humans in the wild.

It then cites Wikipedia.

This is a warning from the top of the film about what to expect. The characters, the approach, and the plot are to be taken as seriously as a Wikipedia source.

The same goes for the coked-up bear. A drug-addicted bear that the viewer cannot help but fall in love with, even though she might eat someone’s face.

So, where to begin on this monstrosity of cinema? How does one define the “plot” of Cocaine Bear?

The film is inspired by a true story about a drug trafficker who was flying over a small Georgia town. A town with a lot of wildlife in its backyard. The drug transporter (played by Matthew Rhys) dropped a tremendous amount of cocaine over a wooded landscape while accidentally falling to his death due to a failed parachute.

The real story also involved a bear ingesting one of these bricks of cocaine, and dying soon after from the toxicity. Director Elizabeth Banks took this initial concept and asked, “What if the bear survived and ate a bunch of stupid people?”

The results are rather glorious if audiences can tolerate the unapologetically bad character writing.

One-dimensional bear food

Set in the 80s, the film has a vast array of one-dimensional characters. And as of writing this review, this writer does not remember the name of a single one of them (thank you IMDB). This is quite purposeful. Everyone in this movie is designed to be one-dimensional bear food.

The first offering is a group of gangsters attempting to recover the cocaine in the forest. This group of buffoonish misfits includes Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and their boss Syd (Ray Liotta). Ehrenreich’s role has the most nuance as a character, with an actual backstory involving grief.

Syd is the father of Eddie, and the film depicts a lot of tension between them throughout the experience. Even with a one-dimensional character, the late Ray Liotta is great at performing.

Aaron Holliday and O'Shea Jackson Jr. in Cocaine Bear.
Aaron Holliday and O’Shea Jackson Jr. in Cocaine Bear. Pic credit: Universal Pictures

Keri Russell plays Sari, a mother looking for her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and her daughter’s friend Henry (Christian Convery). Both children skip school to search for a waterfall in the park and discover illegal substances. The kids in Cocaine Bear share some of the biggest laughs from the film. They might be funnier than the adult performers.

The last two headliners are Margo Martindale as a curmudgeon park ranger (who almost steals the show) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Da 5 Bloods) as Bob, a police officer investigating the case of the body and drugs that fell from the sky.

Then there is the bear. The insanely over-the-top, violent bear who is addicted to cocaine. And there is plenty of this crazed animal.

The approach to the bear has the spirit of a B-movie monster. Possibly inspired by films such as Piranha or Anaconda. The deaths are deliberately funny, gory to a humorous extreme, and constructed to be intentionally shocking. Adding excessive amounts of nudity could have upgraded Cocaine Bear to a grindhouse movie.

Admittingly, as crazy as Cocaine Bear becomes, there was room for improvement. The jokes were eye-roll-inducing in some areas. During various scenes, the dialogue and story felt like it was written on a napkin on the day of filming.

Picture all the supporting characters of a Michael Bay Transformers movie (their jokes, dialogue, and all) but placed as main characters in their own movie. As a positive, this makes it all the more pleasurable when the bear starts killing people. If Optimus Prime started eating all the supporting characters in Transformers: Age of Extinction, it would arguably be a masterpiece.

Problems are present in Cocaine Bears’ third act. The film’s finale is centered in an extremely dark environment and the ending’s presentation is dimly lit to a fault. Now, this could be due to the lighting and cinematography or it could be how the movie theater presented the film. It remains unclear which is the blame.

The thrills lack bite in the finale as well. It’s an ending that loses most of its high as it runs out of ideas for its inebriated bear.

Comedic B-movie-inspired trash of the finest cut

Still, it’s a movie about a bear on cocaine. There is only so much one can ask for with a premise built on zoo animals and narcotics.

There is no story. There is no character development. The bear does cocaine and eats non-playable characters in his own video game. That is exactly what moviegoers will want to see.

Cocaine Bear is unapologetically trash cinema at its finest. It’s comedic B-movie monster mayhem where every character is purposely designed for death.

Just like the drugs ingested by the bear, brain cells will be lost, and regrets might be had, but an unforgettable time will be experienced.

For more reviews, read the coverage for movies such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Outwaters.

Cocaine Bear is now in theaters.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments