Movie review: 'Cocaine Bear' is entertaining in a shallow way

Fred Hawson

Posted at Mar 24 2023 02:16 PM

A scene from 'Cocaine Bear'
A scene from 'Cocaine Bear'

In 1985, a drug smuggler was throwing duffel bags full of cocaine packages out from a plane. However when it was his turn to jump out of the plane, he had a freak accident when he was about to jump out and fell to his death in Tennessee. Meanwhile, the bags of cocaine he threw out landed in Chattahoochie National Forest in Georgia state, and drug lord Syd White (Ray Liotta, in his final screen role) wanted them back. 

A female adult black bear in the forest happened to ingest some of the cocaine from these bags, and began to exhibit unexpected behavior. That same day, little girl Dee Dee and her best friend Henry decided to skip school and go into the forest. En route, the two friends saw the bags of cocaine on the forest floor and a little later, the bear appeared and chased them. Soon after, Dee Dee's mother Sari (Keri Russell) went out there too to look for the kids. 

From the get go, the film tells us that this crazy situation was actually based on a true story that happened in Georgia state in 1985. However, in real life, the bear ingested a huge amount of cocaine and died without killing any human victims. The locals stuffed that bear, put him on display and dubbed it as "Cocaine Bear." This year, writer Jimmy Warden imagined what would happened if the bear did not die, and just got high. 

Director Elizabeth Banks told her story tongue-in-cheek, in a darkly comic style with gory innovative kill scenes of the bear attacking its victims like a sort of serial killer, like it was done in similar spirit as "Scream." The way park ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) met her painful end after a grueling ambulance chase with the bear was quite memorable. The way wildlife advocate Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) on the tree was also quite grisly, yet oddly funny. 

The CG bear looked good enough for its slapstick comedic routines, but not really to the realistic level of the bear that attacked Leonardo di Caprio in "The Revenant" (2015). 

The rest of the film screamed low-brow in its inane dialogue and amateurish acting of its characters, mostly redneck local folks and stupid drug crooks. Don't expect too much and it can still be quite entertaining in the shallowest way. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."