If you are on the internet, odds are you have been part of the Cocaine Bear frenzy. Whatever you thought about the idea of a movie centered on a bear who does cocaine, it was hard not to get swept away by the pure absurdity of it all. When we started getting updates about the baller cast, some of us started to wonder if this would be a legitimate film. Either way, many of us hit the theaters last week to see what this Cocaine Bear was all about.
The film follows the fallout of a coked-out 500-pound bear. The bear goes on a rampage as various characters enter their woods and cause mayhem. One of the action-comedy’s strong points is the blood and intestines that punctuate the absurdity. Cocaine Bear is also shockingly inspired by a true story. While the bear this movie is based on had a much less adventurous moment before ODing, it makes the parts of the story they kept that much more absurd.
It’s A Bloody Brutal Time
Director, Elizabeth Banks, does not shy away from the gore, and we love to see it. One of my favorite things about Cocaine Bear is the amount of blood and violence we get. There’s limb snapping, finger finding, and gut-ripping sights for sore eyes. The mayhem is interwoven throughout a script that seems to spiral forever. Whenever I started to get bored, there would be a new pool of blood, or a head would roll. It’s a welcome change from the films we’ve seen that are afraid to get down and dirty. It reminded me of all the deadly summer camp movies I was raised on, minus the offensive jokes and stereotypes, and it felt like a return to home. I didn’t love this movie, but I loved how it made me feel. I also respect that it went for it. Everyone in the cast committed to these bloody bits and seemed to have fun doing something wildly outside their comfort zones.
While we saw most of the major moments in the trailer, there are still some gooey surprises. This movie is surprisingly gross in all the disgusting ways I wanted. The team in charge of gore should be very proud of their work. My 90s kid brain was very happy to see this carnage underscored by Mark Mothersbaugh’s musical selections. Mothersbaugh’s name might be familiar to many others who watched a ton of the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats. So, these two worlds meeting makes so many versions of myself happy.
The Cast We Deserve
Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Isiah Whitlock Jr. are only some of the names in this stacked cast. This movie will also be one of our final Ray Liotta roles, as the actor passed away last May. With so much talent, it becomes hard to juggle the many different storylines. It also means we get less time with our central bear as we chase the many threads running throughout the script. While I love all of these actors, and everyone gets at least a couple of moments to shine, it does lead to a bit of whiplash.
After the coke and the bear are introduced, it seems like we’ll be following Dee Dee (played by Brooklynn Prince), a smart kid artist with a lot of agency. After we fall for her character, though, she gets snatched, and this plotline becomes about finding her. However, as her mom Sari (played by Russell) and friend Henry (played by Christian Convery), spend the rest of the film looking for her, we also get other threads to hold onto.
One is the recently widowed Eddie (played by Alden Ehrenreich) who is talked into doing more dirty work for his drug-dealing dad. He and his constant scene partner Daveed (played by Jackson Jr.) have possibly the most fun in the movie. However, they also get entangled in so many other threads that the script begins to feel like a maze. While all of these offshoots have something cool, like a bloody stump or something giggle-worthy, it doesn’t ever add up to make all of the mental gymnastics worth it for some of us.
It also means the script falls victim to having to circle back to kill someone or show someone’s remains instead of pushing forward. During the last act, this problem becomes apparent as we get our first flashback to one group discovering a body right outside where we catch up with them again. It also feels like everyone still alive is rushed together to get to their resolutions. Even if they only show up to wash their hands of the situation.
While I can’t stress enough that this script feels messy, parts of the production make us root for the finished product despite ourselves. We knew going in this felt like a skit being stretched into a movie. The film is a nice distraction from the world, even if all of the threads and the style itself, aren’t for everyone. Whenever I think I want to be mad about the movie, I’ll think of a moment that made me giggle. Or, I’ll think of experiments from this new crop of films that fall even flatter but have found their audience. Then I choose to be kinder to this Cocaine Bear because, for all of its faults, it swung big and at least gave us something.