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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

A few lines on ‘Cocaine Bear’

Editor's note: This review contains spoilers for ”Cocaine Bear.”

Could I have enjoyed more than 95 minutes of watching a bear high on cocaine devour members of my own species? Absolutely.

Marketed in the horror-comedy genre, the movie is a well-crafted product of overexaggerated whimsy. As each new person is introduced, it’s a pleasure speculating about how much time that character will be alive before becoming the bear’s next snack. To my initial dismay, the picture’s most lovable protagonists — a couple of middle school troublemakers — escape being mauled to death like most everybody else. I was on the edge of my reclining chair wondering when the film would take this dark turn, yet it never did. If you can handle a little blood, the choice to portray a pair of truant 13-year-olds ingesting a bit of yayo is about as messed up as this Elizabeth Banks film gets.

The 500-pound CGI bear — some 325 pounds larger than the real “Pablo Eskobear” who died after ripping into two million dollars of the titular drug — could appropriately be called the LeBron James of American black bears. Hollywood’s cocaine bear, whose drug-fueled rampage includes eating people out of trees, chasing down an ambulance and taking a few bullets to the chest, somehow manages to avoid a lethal overdose this time around. Through the absurdity of it all, Banks spins the story of an aggressive carnivore foraging for duffle-bag-size loads of narcotics in the wilderness into a surprisingly stark rendering of substance abuse.

Furnishing the drugged-up animal with plenty of meal options, screenwriter Jimmy Warden inserted a smattering of subplots, adding to the breadth — but probably not the depth — of the film’s appeal. I’ll appreciate seeing O’Shea Jackson Jr. beat up a trio of punks with a switchblade no matter the context. The performance of “Field of Dreams” and “Goodfellas” star Ray Liotta, who passed away in the spring of 2022, as the unhappy drug kingpin Syd White weighs heavy on the heart. The Universal Pictures film was dedicated to Liotta’s memory upon release. A couple of disposable hikers, park rangers and cops — whose survival percentage lingers under fifty percent — are dispatched to tie up loose plot threads.

While I advise getting to the theater within about the next week and a half to see the movie before its shelf life as a hot conversation topic around class or work runs down, I’d recommend anyone go check out “Cocaine Bear” for years to come. The film opens with the infamous anti-narcotics “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” clip of eggs in a frying pan, inviting questions about the relationship between drugs and creativity. “Cocaine Bear” encourages the exploration of dumb ideas not for the sake of critical acclaim — don’t expect an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects — but something maybe just as sweet: millions and millions of dollars. Maybe the movie ought to make us non-hard-drug-using individuals ponder what we are most addicted to of all: wit.

Title: Cocaine Bear”

Directed by: Elizabeth Banks

Starring: Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

If you like: Snakes on a Plane”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5