Review: COCAINE BEAR Lacks Bite – It’s More Like Cocaine Bore!

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cocaine Bear has become much more than a movie. It’s a cultural reference onto itself, a title that conjures up certain B-movie thrills and a trailer that set the internet ablaze. Written by Jimmy Warden, Cocaine Bear is loosely based on a true story from 1985 which saw an American black bear munch down on 75 lbs (34 kg) of cocaine before fatally keeling over. Elizabeth Banks’ film ditches the reality and plays up the comedy for a film which fails despite dedicated performances from its eclectic cast. 

A prologue begins with a smuggler/pilot ditching bags of cocaine from a light aircraft before accidentally killing himself in a drug-fuelled haze by knocking himself unconscious and falling out of the plane. The coke is now on the ground. The bear has eaten the coke and soon Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest is awash with potential snacking material for a bear with a serious case of the munchies. 

Keri Russell is a mother looking for her lost daughter (Brooklynn Prince). O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich are low-level dealers looking to reclaim their stash for Ray Liotta. Isiah Whitlock Jr. is a cop on the hunt for the missing drugs and Margo Martindale is a Park Ranger caught up in the mayhem. Chaos ensues. 

Elizabeth Banks makes a fatal error by playing Cocaine Bear for full laughs. Simply put – there’s no tension. You don’t care what happens to the people because essentially everyone is on-hand to be dead meat. Throw in the fact the CG bear is rendered like a cartoon and it’s like you’re watching a children’s film with added gore. And speaking of the gore – that’s all CG too – so there’s no visceral impact of limbs being ripped-off and faces being eaten. The 2010 family film Furry Vengeance had crazed animals attacking Brendan Fraser – those animals were real – couldn’t they have attempted something that looked similar here? 

Even the waterfall set finale plays with all the dramatic impact of a live-action Disney movie from the 1990s, a tough mother trying to save her family from the evil villains. Again, it’s all played for comedy, undercutting the tension. The cute, coked-up CG bear cubs don’t help add to the drama either. 

Now, I enjoyed the performances in Cocaine Bear, especially the easy camaraderie between O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich – but that’s not enough to make it entertaining. Even the supporting players give their all, but there’s no weight to them because they’re just sketches of characters – like something from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

With more fluff than fur, Cocaine Bear lacks bite. It’s more like cocaine bore.