Film Review: “Cocaine Bear”


Screengrab from: "Cocaine Bear"

“Cocaine Bear” features a bear who ingests cocaine and goes on a rampage. The film was directed by Elizabeth Banks and released on Feb. 24 2023.

Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer

The title tells you everything you need to know. “Cocaine Bear” is about a bear on cocaine; and that’s about all you need to be sucked into this wild ride of a movie.

It may shock you to hear that this film is actually based on a true story. No, a bear didn’t actually go on a killing rampage after ingesting a copious amount of cocaine, but a 175-pound black bear, now nicknamed “Pablo Eskobear,” did overdose on some lost blow in 1985 and died in the woods of Georgia. Our Cocaine Bear plays pretty fast and loose with the whole “based on a true story” idea, but it is a killer premise that sells.

We’re reminded that this is all set during Reagan’s “War on Drugs” in the 1980s by the use of the now iconic “this is your brain on drugs” ad that every gen x parent vividly remembers and endlessly tells you about, which opens the picture. 

This effective kill comedy follows the standard formula where a group of unassuming individuals gets taken out one by one. In this group, we have ten or so key characters whose paths cross and intertwine because of this big bear. Each of these characters are juggling with their own vastly different story arc. 

Among these characters, there are a few who are mixed up in a drug cartel, a couple of kids trying to skip school, a romance, a cop who loves his dog, and a fierce mama trying to protect her kid. You can get a little lost in all these convoluted plotlines, and I think the story could have been better had it focused on one of these narratives.

Despite this, there are a few stand-out moments, one of which features a paramedic team comprised of comedian and TikTok personality Scott Seiss also known as the “angry retail guy” whose small role remains memorable. Margo Martindale’s quintessential character acting shines as she plays a love-sick yet nonsense park ranger. And while there isn’t a main character, Keri Russell emerges as a core protagonist as the mom who stops at nothing to protect her kid.

Universal Studios is on a stretch of fun low-budget horror comedies with “Violent Night” late last year, “M3GAN” in January and now this cocaine-fueled adventure, each of which brought a surprising turnout to the theaters. They all have a simple premise that sells, which is exactly what theaters need right now to stay afloat. 

“Cocaine Bear” ranked second at the box office in its opening weekend only being bested by Marvel’s new Ant-Man. It’s a studio comedy and it shows. The jokes are repetitive, the same jump scares are used more than once, it’s formulaic, but we can be comforted by the formula. The generic conventions are laid out early on, and we basically know exactly what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t have to make it any less entertaining.

The tone is loose, and the writing is even looser, but “Cocaine Bear” doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. It’s a bloody gory horror comedy romp. It’s nothing profound; it doesn’t have cultural commentary on the state of the world or some forced political message. The film is simply content being a B movie, and that’s what makes it enjoyable.

Watch “Cocaine Bear” in theaters now.