‘Cocaine Bear’: Drug’s apex predator goes crazy


(1.5 stars)

“Cocaine Bear” isn’t so much a movie as it is an idea – a synopsis, a whirlwind pitch, a miniature description: bear + cocaine – that has kind of metastasized into the collection of footage hitting theaters this week. That’s the length of a feature film. You have to buy tickets to see it. It was directed by Elizabeth Banks (“Charlie’s Angels”). And it stars Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, all of whom are real actors. But it’s not really a movie.

Or at least it doesn’t look like it.

cowardly (very cowardly) based on reports of a black bear whose skeletal remains were discovered in 1985 by narcotics investigators in rural Georgia, along with 40 torn cocaine packets believed to have been dropped from an airplane by a deceased smuggler before he can to get them back, the film is a wild extrapolation — part low-budget horror flick, part five-minute comedy skit spanning the length of a Disneynature documentary — about what would have could have happened between the ingestion of the drug by the bear and its death. Every time the rampaging CGI creature, created by Weta FX, the famed visual effects studio behind the Lord of the Rings and Avatar franchises, is on screen, the movie comes alive, weirdly alive. It’s funny, insane and hyperviolent, in a clumsy, half-baked way that could best be enjoyed in an altered state. During lulls where the characters are talking (which happens with surprising frequency considering the film’s title), “Cocaine Bear” goes into a snorting hibernation.

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That’s okay, because you won’t miss much, despite a plot that looks complicated on paper. After a brief prologue establishing the location, several parties converge on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where they encounter a drugged bear. There’s the Georgian nurse (Russell) looking for her gambling-addicted daughter (Prince); the Tennessee detective (Whitlock Jr.) and several Missouri felons (Jackson, Ehrenreich, and Liotta), all of whom are looking for drugs; as well as the park ranger and his friend (Martindale and Ferguson). Other miscellaneous characters pop up here and there as bear fodder, including paramedics responding to attacks and teenage punks, most of whom die gruesome deaths.

The film’s entire budget seems to have been diverted from the script to some admittedly impressive bear effects. Ferguson’s hairbrush wig and mustache, on the other hand, look like they were trimmed with garden shears by a distracted makeup artist who was playing Wordle on her phone. Is there anything inherently funny about the 1980s? The filmmakers seem to think so, from Russell’s hot pink jumpsuit to the corny needlepoint drops, including Melle Mel’s 1983 song “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” featuring prominently.

And they may be right. But there’s something funnier about a bear on cocaine. It’s not much, and it’s barely enough to keep this contrivance, call it what you will, alive for an hour and a half. If you have seen the viral trailer – heck, if you read the title – you got already got the joke.

R In neighborhood theatres. Contains bloody violence, gore, drugs and foul language. 95 mins.

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