Updated: Feb 26
Let me be completely transparent and say that animal attack movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Movies like the Grey, the Ghost and the Darkness, Beast, and Crawl do not get the same praise from critics that I shower them with. All that being said, Cocaine Bear was ok.
When I was younger I had an incident with a tiger and a shark, both left me somewhat traumatized and morbidly fascinated by stories of people becoming prey to apex predators. Death and public speaking cover the vast majority when talking about ultimate fears, mine is being mauled by something just large enough that I’ll undoubtedly lose. You would think with my unique appreciation of the animal attack subgenre, and love of dark comedy would make a movie about a cocaine-fueled bear attacking park visitors a list topper. Sadly it doesn't help. Cocaine bear is not particularly bad by any means, it just forgets why we are all here. Which is to see a coked-out predator rip through campers and rangers like an addict on an eight ball. There is plenty of that throughout the movie, but it's saddled in between multiple side plots that I had no interest in.
While Elizabeth Banks (director) scatters the exploits of Pablo Eskabear throughout the movie, we also are treated to a sexually frustrated park ranger played by Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans), hippies, a gang of hooligans, a dog-loving detective played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. (BlacKkKlansman), and more. The two storylines that get the most screen time are drug dealers played by O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), and Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story) who’s dealing with loss while neglecting his child, leaving him in the care of his drug lord grandfather played by Emmy winner Ray Liotta (The Many Saints of Newark). The other is a mom played by Keri Russell (The Americans), looking for her daughter and friend who skipped school to play in the park. All of that is in a movie about Cokey the Bear, which is all anyone wants to see.
The movie reminds me of the last Jurassic World, where they focus on bugs and corporate espionage, rather than dinosaurs. Godzilla vs Kong worked because it is well aware of what we all paid to see - a giant ape fight a giant lizard. Cocaine Bear gets lost in the woods of subplots, desperately trying to make you root for the black bear on a bender when the plot lines merge, fizzle out, or get torn apart (sometimes offscreen). The movie becomes oddly overcomplicated with mundane plot threads, many of which have nothing to do with the titular concept- Bender the bear.
I know I'm being hard on the movie about a bear who eats enough cocaine to give Scarface cardiac arrest. You get what you pay for, and this movie delivers exactly what it advertises, it just also crams it to the brim with a lot of things it hopes you care about, but ultimately won't. Just imagine seeing Winnie the Pooh, but instead of Pooh bear and Piglet, you spend a lot of time with Christoper Robbin’s friends from school. Cocaine Bear was fun, but could have been so much better if they just stuck with the bear a little longer.
Cocaine Bear’s official plot synopsis from Univeral studios reads - “Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner's plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, this wild dark comedy finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists, and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500- pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood.”