With a name like Cocaine Bear, you might think that Cocaine Bear would go a little bit harder into camp territory. That’s a strange definition to hammer down, though. Camp to one person is completely different to another person. This film hearkens back to a nostalgic era for most of the ’80s. The fashion, soundtrack, locales, and titular cocaine are all products of the most decadent era in recent times.

Cocaine Bear is part The Goonies, part Crocodile, and part 48 Hrs. It takes inspiration from all three of those and plenty of other cop/drug action films of the time period.

In the pantheon of animal attack movies, we’ve never had one where a deadly animal also ingests one of the worst substances on Earth. That’s where Cocaine Bear makes its money and gets the asses in the seats. It comes from director Elizabeth Banks and writer Jimmy Warden. And yes, it’s based on a real event that happened with a bear and cocaine in the ’80s.

Even through all of that, Cocaine Bear feels like it could have been just a bit better. If 100% of drug-fueled bear carnage wasn’t possible, this movie goes about 85%. It’s missing that extra oomph that could have taken it over the top into instant classic territory. With a name like Cocaine Bear, getting the cult film bandwagon on board wouldn’t have been difficult.

How Are The Performances In Cocaine Bear?

The main players of Cocaine Bear are Ray Liotta (in his final performance before his untimely passing), Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Brooklynn Prince, Christian Convery, and Margo Martindale. Each of them split off into separate plotlines that all end up converging upon the bear and cocaine at the center of it. Eddie Dentwood (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) are off on orders from Syd Dentwood (Ray Liotta) to pick up the cocaine that fell in a Georgia state park because someone messed up throwing it out of a plane.

Sari (Keri Russell) is after her daughter (Brookylnn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery) after they skip school to paint behind a waterfall in the state park. Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) is after Syd and the entire operation. It all starts to coalesce into one thread eventually, the bear. Finally, Margo Martindale plays a park ranger that gets wrapped up in the entire saga.

The performances in Cocaine Bear range from good (the kids) to great (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta). Jackson Jr. gets some major range to stretch his action muscles in a bathroom fight with some local punks and a shootout. Alden Ehrenreich is more subdued and grieving over a lost loved one for the film’s duration, so he’s relegated to the background.

It’s a movie called Cocaine Bear. The actors know what kind of movie they’re in, and their performances reflect that.

How Frightening And Gore-Filled Is It?

There are definitely some tense moments in Cocaine Bear. If you can imagine one of nature’s biggest predators high on cocaine, you can imagine the terror. Several scenes where the kids are in peril stand out as particularly frightening. The bear is often used for comic relief, but make no mistake, this is still a killing machine with fuzzy brown fur. With that terror comes a good level of gore. However, the bear attack scene in The Revenant is more graphic and terrifying than the ones in this movie. This is comedy first, horror second. Some of the wounds are nicely done with practical effects, with others being digital. It’s a nice mix that complements each other.

What About The Bear? You Can’t Have A Cocaine Bear Without The Bear

The bear in the movie is made of CGI and looks fairly realistic for a bear going on a cocaine spree. An actual person-in-a-suit-bear would have looked worse than the one in the film. The CG does a good job of reflecting that the bear is ultimately not the villain of this story. She’s defending her territory and her cubs, but never outright attacks people like other movie monsters. It’s the ultimate reflection of nature, except on cocaine.

Can You Have Too Many Plotlines In A Movie?

The main thing that Cocaine Bear suffers from is that it’s pulled too many times in too many directions. It has too many plotlines, including one that is there to facilitate a joke in the final minutes of the film. The script does a good job at most things but never verges into that great territory. Sadly, it also shows off many of the funniest and most hilarious bits in the trailer.

At the end of the day, Cocaine Bear takes a fantastic and future camp-cult classic title and doesn’t quite reach that potential. It’s still quite a fun and entertaining romp, though. It works as an adventure surrounding a cocaine-sniffing-rage-monster, but it could have been something truly special with a little more added.

Cocaine Bear releases in theaters on February 24th, 2023.

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