Cocaine Bear (2023): Bearly Passable

“Cocaine Bear” is directed by Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie’s Angels) and stars Keri Russell (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Mission: Impossible III), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Long Shot, Straight Outta Compton), Christian Convery (Sweet Tooth, Playing with Fire), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Hail, Caesar!), Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project, Home Before Dark), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Good Cop, The Wire), Margo Martindale (August: Osage County, The Americans), and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Field of Dreams). In this film, people of various identities must survive against a bear jacked up on cocaine.

If I had the authority to make a textbook definition for the utterance “truth is stranger than fiction,” I would just insert “Cocaine Bear” and move on. “Cocaine Bear” sounds like a campy creature feature from the title alone. And in some ways it is. Although despite being a horror comedy that should not be taken too seriously, it must be noted that “Cocaine Bear” is based on true events.

You heard me right. A bear did cocaine. And they made a movie, specifically one that takes tons of liberties, about it. Best idea ever.

I have been excited for this movie ever since they announced the project in the middle of 2021. While I did not know how the actual movie would turn out, I even put it in my top 10 most anticipated movies of 2023 because I could not stop thinking about it on a frequent basis. What also helped it is the excellently produced trailer that perfectly showcased the over the top comedic nature this film was aiming for. Also, it was directed by Elizabeth Banks, one of my favorite actresses and possibly the best game show host on television right now. Although it must be noted that her directing career has not intrigued me as much. I did not enjoy the first “Pitch Perfect,” therefore I never got around to watching the second after all these years. Her next feature, 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels” had some okay action here and there, but it was lacking in flair. It felt rather pedestrian and suffered from an average marketing campaign.

But “Cocaine Bear” looked like a completely different ballgame. It looked funny, occasionally scary, and seemed to have just the right amount of dumb to avoid feeling overwhelming.

Now that I finally got to see this movie, sorry, no, once in a lifetime cinematic event… What did I think of it?

It was okay.

This is the kind of movie that would go over really well at a pitch meeting. In fact, part of what made me go see “Cocaine Bear” is the idea behind it. Who does not want to see a bear go haywire after ingesting an illegal drug? It is the same way I felt about “Moonfall” before that movie came out. I did not know if it would be good or bad, but that idea is anything but ugly. It would be cool to see what would happen if that became a feature. While “Cocaine Bear” is better than “Moonfall,” this does not suggest I was not a tad a underwhelmed with this creature feature that honestly does the bare minimum to be watchable.

Unlike Elizabeth Banks’s past features, she did not write “Cocaine Bear.” That honor belongs to Jimmy Warden, who only has one previous screenplay credit. He was one of the writers behind “The Babysitter: Killer Queen,” a straight to Netflix film. This makes “Cocaine Bear” Warden’s first theatrical written effort. While I found “Cocaine Bear” to have its comedic moments, it could have been funnier. Most of the funnier moments in the movie are already in the trailer. When I come out of a good comedy, I usually end up quoting one or two lines from it either with a friend, family member, or in cases like this one where I go to the movies alone, amongst myself. I am having a difficult time remembering any specific line from this movie that I did not already see in the marketing that stood out. Except for the one that specifies the gender of the bear, which honestly would have been funnier if I did not already know what it was thanks to social media.

I do not hate any of the characters in the film, but this is not a film that I would sit down and watch again because the characters stand out. That said, I think the two young kids, Henry and Dee Dee, played by Christian Convery and Brooklynn Prince play well off each other. They are two of the more admirable cogs that mesh this movie together. I bought into their chemistry, I liked the reason behind why they were going into the forest. I mean, almost every kid would dare to skip school every once in a while. I also like how this movie was set in the 1980s, which is when the story that inspired this movie took place, because if it were set today, Keri Russell’s character, who has to search for these two, would just call Dee Dee’s cell phone if she can be trusted with one. This makes it a bit harder for the Keri Russell to track the two down since they cannot simply be geolocated. The other thing I liked about the two kids is the way they were used for comedic purposes. Not just in terms of their dialogue, but their actions. This movie is not afraid to push the boundaries. Without giving too much away, there is a moment where the kids dare each other to try cocaine. I will let you see the rest for yourselves.

I should also note that this is one of the last projects to ever feature Ray Liotta, who recently passed away. He does a a good job with the material given to him as this kingpin who is after the cocaine that ends up lost in the woods. Liotta’s character is one of the standout personalities on screen and had much of my attention throughout the runtime. Knowing that this film is one of Liotta’s last is unfortunate, but it if there is any bright side, “Cocaine Bear” is a halfway decent film, and he is also likable in it. That said, the situation is still sad. Ray Liotta will be missed. May he rest in peace.

From start to finish, the bear has a commanding presence. Every scene featuring the bear is a hoot. The chase sequences, the kills, the rampages, the blood, all of it! Even the one scene where a bunch of people watching it snort cocaine is a thing of beauty. Seeing the bear do its thing in that moment is one of the more laughable scenes in the film. The movie is called “Cocaine Bear,” and it certainly lives up to its name.

I think the biggest problem with “Cocaine Bear” is that the film’s cast probably would have been better have they shaved one or two names off. I understand that the movie needs enough people to tell a story. And the plots and subplots for the most part do their job. But at times, it feels a little overwhelming when the movie is about the tales of a coke-fueled furry creature. I have no real digs to give other than the fact that the movie feels a tad overstuffed in its 95 minute runtime. Would I recommend “Cocaine Bear?” Well, I think some of you might find it to be an inevitable watch the moment you see the title. As bad as I think “Sharknado” is, a reason why that movie appears watchable at first is because of the title. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but with a title like “COCAINE BEAR,” it is undoubtedly going to get attention. But in regards to it being a movie, I think there are better options out there. Then again, this film manages to be… somewhat bearable.

In the end, “Cocaine Bear” is neither bad or good. It is not that powerful of a drug. It finds itself somewhere in the middle. I love Elizabeth Banks in a lot of projects like “The LEGO Movie,” “Slither,” “Zack and Miri,” “Brightburn,” “The Hunger Games,” and I even thought she was great in the “Power Rangers” movie. That said, if she continues to direct movies, I hope we get something better out of her than this. She is not a terrible director. But not only does the writing fail to supplement her efforts, but I do not know if she has a flair to her work yet that would make her stand out. She is not a bad. She gets the job done. I just hope whatever she does next is a step up from this. The acting is okay, the bear is admirable, and the movie might be good to watch at least one time to see what all the hoopla is about. But it is not the next Best Picture by any means. I am going to give “Cocaine Bear” a 6/10.

“Cocaine Bear” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie “Air.” I just saw the film days ago and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on it with you all. Also, I will soon be reviewing “How to Blow Up a Pipeline,” which is available in select theaters now. Additionally, I will be talking about the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie. I want to talk about it sooner than later, but I just have not found the perfect time to sit down and write about it. However, that review should be on its way when the time is right. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Cocaine Bear?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie based on a true story? Or, what is a movie that you like that is based on a story so strange that it just so happens to be true? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


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