Cocaine Bear (Theatrical)

An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.

February 28, 2023 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

With a title like Cocaine Bear, one should probably have SOME idea of what to expect. With that being said, many might just not know what the heck to expect. As of this writing, the film is already a hit at the Box Office, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re to see more of our not-so-cuddly friend. Like how M3GAN had brilliant marketing, this one is no different. The ads are all over social media, and some theater chains are even offering free gummy bears to those who purchase a ticket. The film certainly makes good memes. But let’s ask, how is the film itself? Read on to see my thoughts.

The film, which was inspired by the true story of a bear who got into some cocaine and eventually died, begins in 1985. That is about the only fact of the film as the rest of it clearly makes its own path, which is more than OK. So, it’s 1985 and a drug smuggler drops a shipment of cocaine from his plane. As he is about to parachute out of the plane, he knocks himself unconscious. He falls to his death, and the cocaine is all over the place, in bricks all over the ground below. This sets in motion not only the bear getting into the cocaine, but a ton of characters and the film then revolves around the various subplots. Really, far more characters and plot than a film like this requires. We have Daveed (O’Shea Jackson) as Daveed who works for Syd (Ray Liotta) and is tasked with locating the missing drugs. He’s partnered with Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) who is Syd’s dimwit son. Then there’s Sari (Kerri Russell) who is trying to track down her child who, along with a friend have gone missing. There’s also the cop named Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who is on the trail. I wish I could say lastly, but we also find the Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) who is involved here. Don’t fall too in love with many of these characters as the body count is a little high.  Pacing gets better as the film moves along. It’s never slow, but when the plot can finally find its stride and unravel without introducing more and more characters. I found the second half a bit more fun than the first as there’s a lot of setup here.

I was hoping to get a second viewing in before my review as I feel that my enjoyment might be better. I feel that once we’ve seen the way the plot unfolds that maybe things will flow better. I can’t comment on that as of this writing, I have only seen the film once. What I will say is that Director Elizabeth Banks can never quite master the tone here. The film moves along nicely, but we’re seeing body parts dismembered and blood and guts, but the tone is just off. It is sometimes hard to laugh at things like that when things don’t feel right. Also, there are far too many characters here. I don’t see why the delinquents were even needed here. I understand one of them is the connective tissue between characters finding the drugs, but it could’ve been handled differently. I lost count of the number of times the film changes settings, but in the first 10 minutes or so it became a bit much. Also, much of the characters are just kind of annoying. It’s great seeing Ray Liotta in one of his final roles, but some of the others, including the park ranger and the local helping her. There are some very funny bits here, and I love that the film truly earns its R-rating, but a lot of elements don’t click like they should. What should have been a fun and to-the-point film is only sporadically entertaining. I will say that the CGI bear at least looks convincing. Give it a go, but with caveats and you should find moderate entertainment value.

The Bottom Line

While not a total dud, the film isn’t quite the check-you-brain at the door outing that you might expect. Tone becomes a big problem here, along with too many characters, many who are quite annoying. Somehow, Cocaine Bear is still worth seeing. I just wish it let loose more and narrowed down on the characters and plot points. It earns a modest recommendation from me.