Spoilers are smarter than the average bear.
Sometimes you need silly. Sometimes you need stupid. Sometimes you just want to have a fun time watching a screen and are not in it for plot, drama or logic. There’s space for films where you can turn off your brain and just forget about the world for an hour and a half. Actually, nowadays any movie that can keep its runtime under two hours already has a chance with me. And yes, there a few reservations about how this movie would be a little less of a mess – some intentional, some accidental. All and all, it still gets a lot of the job done.
Cocaine Bear (2023) is directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden. A clumsy drug dealer high on his own stuff drops a bunch of cocaine on the wild. Props here, we don’t get the scene of the bear finding it for the first time – we all expect that. Instead we get the first time that a pair of hapless hikers run into our volatile omnivore. One merciless maiming later, we’ve got our premise setup and we get introduced to our main cast.
Caught in the crossfire, we have nurse Sari (Keri Russell), her young but rebellious daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Dee Dee’s sidekick Henry (Christian Convery). Then we have bad thug #1 Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who is being tasked to find the drugs except first he needs to drag mourning widower Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), sentimental former thug and son of the drug kingpin himself, Syd (Ray Liotta).
Representing the strong arm of the law, we get Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Officer Reba (Ayoola Smart). I guess I might also need to count Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) here. You’ll either love her, hate her or love to hate her. The cast is rounded up by would-be hoodlums, paramedics and a bear expert (Kristofer Hivju) who’s going to be no help at all. Although Margo Martindale’s Ranger Liz character might be the most iconic, I’ll give breakthrough performance to young Christian Convery’s plucky kid Henry.
Now, given that we have a mom and two kids you might be misled into thinking this is a family movie. NOPE. This is NOT a kids’ film by any extent of the imagination. Things will get gory. Kids are going to have to run and be scared and there’s a chance they’ll do drugs. That’s because this is not a movie that took the real story it’s “inspired on” and asked, “what if” but rather, “what would be the most effed up thing to happen next?”. Expect some limbs and guts all over the place.
Does it work? YES. Crazily enough I’d say sure, it does the job. It has a couple of misfires, setting up the family angle a little too long while we’re waiting for the bear to show up, but at least it builds some anticipation. If you’re expecting the kids to save the day, I regret to inform you this is not Disney. There are a few moments where you sort of expect the action to ramp up and it slows down instead. The solution might be just “more bear” but there’s only so much a bear can do.
Recommended with popcorn and your brain switch in the off position with reservations. Comedy gold is not, horror is a lot more along the WTF variety and you’re definitely cheering for the bear in the end. That being said, some of its moments work a lot more than others. The tonal shift from comedy to horror might not work for everyone, but even if its most gory moments you can’t help but not take it seriously at all. Worth at least a single watch, when you’re feeling like mindless entertainment without redemption.
That will do for now.