Hollywood’s newest comedy-horror film sticks true to its title and leaves no surprises.
“Cocaine Bear” is finally here after the viral trailer amassed 19 million views when it was released three months ago. The Elizabeth Banks-directed film is a refreshing reminder that not every movie needs to take itself so seriously to be an entertaining theater experience.
As the name suggests, “Cocaine Bear” follows an American black bear who, in 1985, consumes an egregious amount of cocaine after a drug deal goes awry, scattering the drug throughout the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. The bear goes on an inevitable rampage after developing an addiction to the drug.
In order to recover the lost funds, drug kingpin Syd White, played by Ray Liotta, sends in underlings O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich. In their efforts to find the missing cocaine, Jackson Jr. and Ehrenreich encounter a host of other characters trying to avoid the bear’s coke-fueled rampage. Among these include Kerri Russell searching for her school-skipping daughter and Isiah Whitlock Jr. looking for the coke on behalf of the sheriff’s office.
Interestingly, the film is based on a true story in which a drug smuggler dropped cocaine from a plane after being tailed by the feds. However, unlike the movie, the real-life bear died from an overdose instead of going on a murderous rampage in the Georgia wilderness.
“Cocaine Bear” is the perfect example of a movie made for a good time. It wasn’t made to win awards or tell some profound message, but to make you laugh at an idea as ridiculous as a bear doing cocaine. One of the things this movie does so well is understanding what it is. The jokes aren’t complex because they don’t need to be.
Jackson Jr. and Ehrenreich form the perfect duo in the movie. Their personality and charisma are easily displayed, and they make their drug dealer personas comical and redeeming in the end.
Public perception of the film is initially positive and has outperformed expectations. The film drew in $23.1 million dollars during opening weekend and is currently sitting at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.
For those who aren’t fans of violence or gore, this film probably isn’t for you. Although it’s a comedy, the producers definitely leaned into the idea of how graphic and terrifying a bear on cocaine could be. The special effects team had their work cut out for them, and they executed well.
Despite how much I enjoyed this film, I did have a small list of complaints.
There were a number of possible payoffs set up in act one of the film that never made their way back into act three. I won’t spoil much, but most audience members will make predictions about the film early that seem destined to come true and never do.
It’s also upsetting that this was Ray Liotta’s last film. The “Goodfellas” actor died in his sleep while filming another project in the Dominican Republic in 2022. Liotta has been an icon in American cinema and it doesn’t feel right that his last completed work was “Cocaine Bear.” His legacy aside, Liotta was excellent in this movie as a ruthless kingpin annoyed with the prospect of losing millions of dollars in coke to a bear.
Overall, I would give “Cocaine Bear” a 7/10. It knows what it wants to be and does it well. The comedy isn’t complex or thoughtful, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a fun theater experience that could also be put off until it releases on your favorite streaming service.
At the end of the day, “Cocaine Bear” leaves the audience with one thought: “I can’t believe a bear did cocaine.”