Apparently, in 1985, a noted drug smuggler named Andrew C. Thornton II dropped duffel bags of cocaine over a national park in Georgia. A poor black bear stumbled on one of the bags, helped themselves to some of white powder, and died shortly thereafter. It’s a bizarre footnote in history appropriately coined ‘Cocaine Bear’. Not surprisingly, Hollywood adapted the story into a full-fledged horror-comedy with Elizabeth Banks stepping behind the camera. The only surprise is that it took Hollywood this long to get around to telling the story of Cocaine Bear. Not everyone was impressed with the result but at least the bear got some long deserved onscreen revenge.
It’s 1985 and noted drug smuggler Andrew C. Thorton II’s plane is overweighed with duffel bags of cocaine. Above a national park in Georgia, Thorton unloads several bags from the plane, but the smuggler dies when his parachute doesn’t open. The cocaine is left spread out and missing in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. But when a black bears finds one of the duffel bags and eats some of the white powder, it’s driven into a wild frenzy that puts anyone in the park in grave danger.
Cocaine Bear Knows Exactly What Kind of Movie It Is
Okay, it’s a movie called Cocaine Bear. It literally tells the story of bear driven into a frenzy after eating bags of cocaine. The Revenant, this is not. In spite of its ‘based on a true story’ conceit, director Elizabeth Banks and writer Jimmy Warden clearly take creative liberties with the source material. As a result, Cocaine Bear mixes campy comedy with gross-out horror that puts it in the same category as a Sharknado movie. Unlike the unintentional laughs found in 70s eco-horror Grizzly, we’re laughing along with Banks and Warden. Not all the intended humor lands with consistent results.
Audiences expect iffy effects when they turn on a SyFy creature feature. But the first images of the high black bear banging its head against a tree might catch some viewers off-guard. Even for a horror-comedy, the Wētā FX-created CGI bear stretches credulity now and then. What’s surprising about Cocaine Bear is the sheer number of characters who turn up. The horror-comedy becomes something of an ensemble piece with one too many running gags. While they’re initially good for a chuckle, the Duchamps forest gang gag runs its course quickly. Too often these characters distract from the main attraction – the ‘cocaine bear’.
Cocaine Bear Mostly Finds the Right Mix of Comedy and Gross-Out Horror
Regardless of some spotty effects – which is excusable for this sort of movie – Cocaine Bear delivers on its mauling. Expect severed limbs and dangling intestines in relatively healthy doses delivered in some fun set-ups. Arguably, Banks offers up the best scene in the movie when the black bear chases down a racing ambulance. The scene is brutal and hilarious in equal measures. But Banks also reminds us that black bears can climb trees in another darkly funny scene. Overall, Cocaine Bear sticks the horror and comedy more often than it misses.
Arguably, Banks offers up the best scene in the movie when the black bear chases down a racing ambulance. The scene is brutal and hilarious in equal measures.
While the cast feels too thick, most of the idiosyncratic characters ensure this horror-comedy remains fun when its title characters is offscreen. In fact, the movie benefits from the time the screenplay devotes to dialogue and character quirks. In particular, the banter between O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich’s drug dealers makes the characters kind of endearing. One of the funniest moments includes Jackson Jr., Ehrenreich, Isiah Whitlock Jr.’s detective, and a passed out bear. In addition, Keri Russell continues to enjoy something of a career resurgence. And the late Ray Liotta makes a bittersweet appearance in one of his last roles.
Cocaine Bear Firmly Plants Its Tongue In Its Cheek For Campy Fun
Not all the humor and horror lands consistently in Cocaine Bear. But Elizabeth Banks’ latest directorial effort taps into the same amicable spirit as Sharknado albeit a bit more polished. The banter between its actors, particularly O’Shea Jackson Jr and Alden Ehrenreich, ensures some fun in between its bear mauling. Nothing about Cocaine Bear is intended to be taken – the bear effects feel intentionally silly and the gore is over-the-top as expected. Though some audiences may not appreciate this intentional B-movie, there’s plenty of fun to be had with its mix of goofy horror and comedy.