Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Movie Review: Cocaine Bear

15:00 February 28, 2023
By: Fritz Esker

Cult classics in the past were overlooked movies that had the right combination of weirdness and entertainment value to stick out in a crowd and attract a small-but-devoted following. But since 2006's Snakes on a Plane, Hollywood has bankrolled some films with the apparent intent of creating a cult classic. The new horror-comedy Cocaine Bear is cut from that try-hard cloth (and that's not a compliment).

Directed by Elizabeth Banks, Cocaine Bear is very loosely based on a true story from the mid-1980s when a bear ingested cocaine that had been dropped out of a plane. Here, the cocaine sends the bear into a murderous frenzy. So, a large cast of characters including hikers, children, a mother, a ranger, a detective, drug dealers, and delinquents find themselves targeted by the bear.

The film uses extreme gore (and I mean extreme - stay away if you're squeamish) as a way to cover its lack of imagination. The premise could have sustained a Tremors-style horror/comedy, but the script feels unfocused and many of the suspense sequences fail to scare. The closest the film comes to reaching its potential is in a scene where one of the drug dealers (Alden Ehrenreich) plays dead only to have the bear pass out on top of him. Other characters' efforts to get the bear off him without waking it are pretty funny.

While Cocaine Bear admirably keeps things brief, another problem it has is none of the characters stand out. Ehrenreich fares the best among the actors, but the film reminded me how much December's Violent Night (another high-concept effort to create a cult classic) benefited from David Harbour's winning work in that film.

The one notable thing about Cocaine Bear is it was the final film of the great Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Field of Dreams).

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