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  • Rev Horror

Cocaine Bear

Dir. Elizabeth Banks (2023)

A bear ingests cocaine and has basically the same reaction people do.

In 1985, a drug smuggler named Andrew Thornton was found in a driveway in Tennessee after his chute failed to open when he jumped from his plane. Strapped to his body was 80 pounds of cocaine, which upped this story from really fucking weird to batshit insane. There was even more to the story, however, as authorities discover that he dumped at least 40 more kilos of the white powder out of the plane before it crashed, some of which was devoured by a bear. Very little excitement ensued, however, as the bear just straight up died before he could cause any carnage, causing the media to dub the creature Pablo Escobear. I only wish I could come up with shit that hilarious. Now, 38 years later, director Elizabeth Banks decided to turn this insane story into a comedy horror film, taking serious liberties with the real life story and botching almost all potential for the film.

Normally I reserve my second paragraph for a summary of the plot of the film, but it feels particularly unnecessary in this case. Cocaine in the woods, bear eats it, goes crazy is about all you need to know. Rather than bore you with the details, which you probably already surmised from the title of the movie, we'll get straight into the critiques, of which there are many. A CGI bear, copious amounts of CGI blood... this one had the potential to be a really fun film, a Hollywood-produced spoof of animal attack horror films, and instead it feels like a phoned in film that takes advantage of a current event... except that the true story this is based on happened in 1985.

Despite the extreme dependence upon computer graphics, there are some gnarly scenes within. They're not particularly realistic, but a lot of them are still fun to watch. The actors, likewise, know the kind of film that they're in and handle it very well. Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ray Liota form a really notable cast, and while none of them quite have attained the status of Hollywood royalty, they're all decent in their roles and help carry the film as far as it could be carried. The violence is wildly entertaining and helps to stretch what is essentially a barebones plot into a relatively enjoyable feature length.

The script is decently funny, and there are some good jokes sprinkled throughout. I found myself chuckling a good bit, or at least more than I thought I would have going into a film like Cocaine Bear. It's a specific type of humor, and with the script written by Jimmy Warden, who also penned The Babysitter: Killer Queen, you can expect that same sense of cheeky and crude humor from his earlier film. A lot of the jokes don't land, however, preventing the film from completely crossing into the "so bad it's good" territory. It's very, very close, however, which is probably enough to make most horror fans happy.

While Cocaine Bear has more than its fair share of problems, it's really not half bad when compared to other films in the Killer Animal subgenre. That doesn't say a whole helluva lot, as it's more of an indictment on most of the films in the genre than it is a praise of this film. I was actually pretty impressed with the scenery in the film. The film is set in Georgia and very much looks like it, despite being filmed entirely in Ireland. It's beautiful, even when some of the screen is filled by a psychotic CGI bear. The cinematography takes full advantage of the beautiful surroundings, and the movie is definitely better because of it.

Cocaine Bear is a difficult film to parse completely, because it is at once not nearly as good as it should be while also being exactly as good as you'd think it would be. It's got some decent laughs, some rad kills, and enough CGI to choke... well, a bear. It's overtly and willfully stupid, it's completely self-aware, and it's entertaining enough to be enjoyable. I would have much preferred some practical effects, and I think the film suffers greatly for making every piece of it CGI. With a $35 million budget, I would've liked to think they could have done a little bit more with it. Nevertheless, it's a decent watch, and it's certainly a lot more entertaining than a lot of other big-budget Hollywood-styled creature features (lookin' at you, Anaconda). I just wish the film was as good as it could have been rather than just becoming a forgettable, though wildly entertaining, creature feature.

Who this movie is for: Comedy horror fans, Animal attack horror lovers, Pablo Escobear (a joke so nice we used it twice)

Bottom line: Cocaine Bear is dumb, ridiculous, and incredibly fake-looking. It's also a helluva fun ride with some gnarly kills (even though they're unacceptably CGI'ed). It's better than a lot of creature features but lacks a lot of the charm within those films, and while it could certainly be a lot worse, it could also definitely be a lot better. It's streaming on Amazon Prime right now, and if you're a fan of animal horror films, it's definitely one you're going to want to see. Just don't expect anything life-changing, though if you were with a movie called Cocaine Bear, I don't know how I can help you.

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