Cocaine Bear (2023)

Rating: C+

Dir: Elizabeth Banks
Star: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery

This is the most viral movie title since Snakes on a Plane. It doesn’t manage to be quite as successful, only fully embracing the lunacy of its central concept in intermittent fashion. However, the points when it does, leave this an adequately entertaining experience. Probably not quite the movie on which the late Ray Liotta would have chosen to go out, but few of us get that privilege. It does have more basis in fact than Snakes. A bear did indeed consume cocaine dumped from a plane. But it was relatively small (175 lbs) and rather than going on the rampage, it died on the spot. The stuffed corpse is now on display in a Kentucky souvenir store.

This harsh reality would not have made for much of a story – Cocaine Overdose Bear, or possibly Belushi Bear. So it is punched up with various groups converging to the Georgia national park, on which the coke was dropped. There are drug dealer minions Daveed (Jackson) and Eddie (Ehrenreich), seeking to recover the drugs for their boss (Liotta). Tennessee detective Bob is also present, a dead drug-runner having fallen from the sky on his turf. And local mom Sari (Russell) is seeking her daughter Dee Dee, who skipped school with her friend Henry (Convery) to visit the park. All of them will encounter momma bear, who has developed a nasty coke habit, and wants to fight anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path.

When that’s what the film delivers, it’s gory and glorious. The best section is likely the bear laying siege to the ranger station, followed by an ambulance showing up. This results in the scene, understandably showcased in the trailer, where the coke-enraged bear pursues the vehicle. [Jaunty Depeche Mode tune, Just Can’t Get Enough will never be the same again] Similarly, the sequence involving two trees, with a potential victim up each, is a well-staged slice of black comedy. It’s a shame the same cannot be said when the ursine villainess is off screen. It’s definitely a problem if a CGI creation is the most memorable character in your movie. That’s the case here: we finished watching it an hour ago, and I literally cannot remember anybody’s name.

It seems to be an issue with Banks, that she doesn’t understand why people are in the cinema. Her misconceived Charlie’s Angels reboot unilaterally decided to replace women kicking serious ass while looking good, and focus on Kristen Stewart playing an ugly lesbian. #SoBrave. Similarly, we do not care about Sari’s relationship with Dee Dee. We are here to see an animal off its tits, ripping faces. But Banks instead edited Liotta’s death scene, saying, “We didn’t want it to feel exploitative or unnecessary.” Sorry, Lizzy: I suspect that boat sailed… oh, I dunno, when you called your movie Cocaine Bear. We are 100% here for the unnecessary and the exploitative. Needs more bear. Or, possibly, Banks needed more cocaine, I’m not certain.