Movie Review: ‘Cocaine Bear’ (Second Opinion)

Plot: In 1985 drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton (Matthew Rhys) drops a shipment of cocaine from his plane. Subsequently, a black bear in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest does an obscene amount of nose candy and lethal shenanigans ensue.

Review: To some up Cocaine Bear in one word, I would like to quote Cillian Murphy’s Robert Michael Fischer from Inception:


Not funny enough to be a comedy and not scary enough to be considered a horror film, Cocaine Bear is just bump after bump and line after line of wasted potential. Look, I fully understand that when you go into a movie called Cocaine Bear, you’re tacitly entering an artistic social contract. I wasn’t expecting this to be Citizen Kane or Jaws meets It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. However, Cocaine Bear fails to even rise to the level of Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star meets The Happening. What I’m trying to say is that at a bare minimum, I expected director Elizabeth Banks’ movie to be funny and scary. It was neither.

The fundamental, glaring issue with Cocaine Bear is its script. Screenwriter Jimmy Warden’s screenplay is more underwhelming than a week-old Krispy Kreme donut, with jokes just as stale. I think I laughed once in this entire movie. This man had the audacity to have characters refer to the bear as the “cocaine bear” more than once. It was like that episode of Family Guy where Peter is at the movies and someone in the film says, “I’m going to have to become Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

The characters in this movie do some of the most idiotic things I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture. Cocaine Bear had two eleven-year-olds eating spoonsful of cocaine like peanut butter within the first fifteen minutes, with no apparent side effects. Nothing happens to them physically other than slightly runny noses. This makes zero sense since the titular bear ingests enough cocaine to kill a blue whale and then goes on a rampage. Later, when a police officer played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. (yes the dude from The Wire) has the opportunity to kill the bear, he lets it take more cocaine (yes MORE COCAINE) to “see what effect it has.” WHAT? Other mind-numbingly puerile events include a sight gag where Alden Ehrenreich’s Eddie is trapped under the passed-out bear seemingly forever and another where Margot Martindale’s Ranger Liz tries to shoot the bear through another human being. This is what happens when you try to stretch out a true-life anecdotal story into a ninety-minute feature film.

Now in a movie with a ridiculous premise like Cocaine Bear, you can’t expect a real black bear to accomplish some of the requisite tasks. The days of Gentle Ben and The Great Outdoors are long gone. However, you’d think a CGI-rendered bear would look a little more realistic. Unfortunately, with only a $35 million budget I don’t think the parties involved invested nearly enough money. The bear looks shoddy 80% of the time. It never feels terrifying or threatening, merely ridiculous. It also doesn’t help that when the bear weaves his path of wanton destruction, the gore looks egregiously awful. The fake blood and clearly rubber limbs appear like they were acquired at a Spirit of Halloween sale on November 1st.

I will say that Elizabeth Banks’ direction isn’t nearly as bad as some critics make it out to be. She keeps the pace tight and the action (as bad as it is) consistent. Banks utilizes the majestic nature settings with County Wicklow, Ireland standing in for Northern Georgia. Kudos to cinematographer John Guleserian in that regard as well. Additionally, Banks manages to get the most out of her actors despite a poor script. Alden Ehrenreich is particularly good as the grieving widow Eddie. His excellent performance is worthy of a far better film. I also enjoyed Christian Convery as the loveable Henry. With this and Netflix’s Sweet Tooth, he’s proving himself to be quite the adept young actor. Too bad the same can’t be said of Jesse Tyler’s Ferguson’s Peter. The Modern Family alum hams it up to the point where even Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web would be like “OK dial it down a notch.” It doesn’t help that he’s sporting some unnecessary and ridiculous prosthetics that would make Tom Hanks in Elvis cringe.

Banks’ biggest fault lies with not being able to strike a tonal balance between comedy and horror. Cocaine Bear doesn’t succeed in either genre. Consequently, it’s never funny or scary and you ultimately never care about the characters. As a director, it’s your responsibility to accomplish the latter. I didn’t care about the characters. If no one else cared, why should I? The phrase “minimal effort” inundates Cocaine Bear.

Ultimately, Cocaine Bear proves to be an annoying, frustrating, and unfunny film, lacking in both scares and entertainment value. It doesn’t even qualify for “so good it’s bad” status. By the end, you’ll probably be rooting for the bear.

I know I was.

My rating system:

God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad

2 Straight Garbage

3 Bad

4 Sub Par

5 Average

6 Ok

7 Good

8 Very Good

9 Great

10 A Must See

Cocaine Bear: 3/10