Film Reviews

Cocaine Bear (2023)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bad B(ear) Movies are back! 

The family of Zoological Horror-Thrillers that feature a big bad bear is most notably composed of only a handful of films. There’s 1976s Grizzly, 1983s Grizzly II: Revenge, John Frankenheimer’s 1979 Prophecy, Into the Grizzly Maze a movie from 2015 that not many have seen and you could maybe include Backcountry, a horrifying movie for reasons that don’t even primarily include the bear…..that’s about it.

The latest movie to join the sleuth is none other than what may remain the craziest and maybe also the most annoying movie of 2023, Cocaine Bear!!

Sure, the alphas of the cinematic Ursidae family, Grizzly and Prophecy, feature an 18 foot Bearhemoth and a monstrously mutated Spirit Bear but never before has there been a movie where a large American Black Bear gets extremely high on an ungodly amount of white ivory and then goes wildly ballistic on humans.

The movie is very loosely based on the true story from 1985 where drug smugglers chunked a portion of their massive cocaine supply from an airplane where much of it landed in the Chattahoochee National Forest. An American Black Bear then stumbled upon some of it and ate said drug, lots and lots of the drug.

Is the premise of the movie where the intoxicated Bear then goes on an epic blood soaked-coked out forest rampage part of the true story? Of course not. 

You might think at first, logic says a creature of such size should be able to take far more of the substance than a mere human could, but no it doesn’t work this way. The real story is a sadder one that instead resulted in the quick and undoubtedly cruel death of an innocent animal. 

But does a Bear stumbling upon duffle bag after duffle bag of discarded cocaine, getting blitzed out of its mind, then going on a funny haha killing binder make for a much better movie premise? My screening, packed with a rowdy audience, dying of laughter far too often, seems to suggest it is and the positive consensus online also strengthens that idea. 

And if you also like the idea that director Elizabeth Banks and writer Jimmy Warden were nobly inspired to give the real bear a bit of cinematic revenge against those who caused its death, the movie sounds even better. Man vs Nature, especially if wronged or provoked, is one of the subgenres major themes and it’s a big part of what makes one work well. It’s a classic case of fuck around and find out.

The American Black Bear may not be the biggest species of Bear but it still has a dangerous size advantage on humans. Introduce this large wild animal with a sense of smell 7x more sensitive than a dogs to a multi million dollar supply of Chattahoochee Snow and you’ve got yourself a totally fictional movie monster star. And it’s the movie’s only star.

Because the cast of Cocaine Bear is hilariously bad. 

I have no idea how they did it but they managed to put together the most bizarre cast that features one too many familiar faces with unfamiliar names. Aside from Keri Russell and Ray Liotta and Ice Cubes son O’Shea, I couldn’t name 97% of the movie’s actors off the top of my head but we’ve all seen them in other movies or shows, typically in the very minor roles as annoying characters. 

Maybe I’m in the minority when it comes to knowing the names of these actors but my point remains. With how little basic logic Cocaine Bear possesses, there are a few too many dumb characters to deal with. Then you throw these goofballs into the mid 1980s and you’ve really got me rolling my eyes. Yeah 1985 is when the true story happened but if there’s something I’m less interested in than the 80s, it’s seeing the decade  recreated in a movie and with such goofiness.

Even though I prefer that my favorite subgenre of movies lean in a more serious direction, I do still like Cocaine Bear and for what it is. 

It takes a tiny sliver of the truth from this real event and reimagines it as this nonsensical foul mouthed 1980s drug fueled revenge tale about a killer bear. There certainly hasn’t been anything like it before and despite it being one of few overly comedic Zoological Horror Thrillers, it still fits in quite nicely with the sub-genre.

Sure it’s a story of Man vs Nature, wronged like never before and you could dissect some legit thematic weight from its coke filled body, trust me, i’ve wasted far too much time doing that already but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t ever expect much more than “A Bear did Cocaine!”, from a horror comedy called Cocaine Bear.

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