SPOILER ALERT: This column contains potential spoilers about “Cocaine Bear.”
Director Elizabeth Banks’ new horror-comedy “Cocaine Bear” featuring the late Ray Liotta, Keri Russell and Margo Martindale proves that humans don’t have to be the star of the show. While the film circled multiple plotlines as new characters appeared in the woods, the film was at its best when the bear was on the screen.
The movie centers around drug dealers who must find missing cocaine that was dropped in the woods of Georgia. The camera follows visitors as they enter a typical forest setting only to find a ravaging, hungry-for-humans bear who consumed the missing cocaine and reacted as one would expect. There are constantly drugs on the loose, and at one point a character exclaims “It’s like cocaine Christmas” as the cocaine is flying everywhere.
The “Based on a True Story” text before the film appears as more of a warning than a delight, because the title reads like a stoner's experiment. A bear does coke. That can’t be real, can it?
The movie was absurdly ridiculous, and that was what made it so endearing and hilarious.
One of my favorite moments was in the opening minutes of the film when a montage of anti-drug PSAs flashed on the screen. Famous ads like the infamous “This is your brain on drugs” clip that warned children of the effects of drugs set the movie up perfectly for the montage of drug-related madness that follows. Shortly after this, two children decide to eat cocaine (yes, with their mouths), so clearly these PSAs in school are really educating the kids.
Coincidentally, the final scene of the movie is also one that sticks out. The bear is seemingly dead after the antagonist shoots her multiple times, but in the end, the cocaine revives her. The humor in this movie is top-notch, and if you can really give in to the stupidity, you won’t stop wheezing.
There were 10-minute stretches where I couldn’t stop laughing — especially in the second act when the bear lept into ambulances, climbed trees and snuck into offices to access Coke, even killing if she had to. In this time, the ridiculousness was at its peak.
The film was engaging not only because of the gore and violence (that was done so phenomenally, by the way) but because the audience grew more attached to the bear. Even as it’s attempting to murder little kids and loving police officers, the bear is the character you can’t stop rooting for.
For example, there’s a scene where the bear takes a break from her cocaine terrors and decides to plop down and nap right on top of Eddie, a young man played by Alden Ehrenreich, that makes the audience say “aww” and wonder how this murderous bear is so darn cute.
And just when you are ready to embrace that cuteness and you want to give her a hug, the bear gets up, snorts some cocaine off a dead body and goes on yet another killing spree. Seeing the bear with her baby bears before the murderous battle continues has a similar effect.
This isn’t a film that tries to be anything more than it is – and that’s what makes it work. It’s an audience pleaser, a film that makes your day a little sunnier. It’s simply a bear doing drugs. For the limited budget — roughly $30 million — the animatronics of the bear were well-done, and the film served its laugh-out-loud purpose. I recommend watching the film, and you might see me there for a rewatch soon at the movie theater.