Lions and tigers and a ‘Cocaine Bear?’ Oh my!

By Paisley McGee

Staff Writer

Have you ever stayed up late with the burning question, “What would happen if a bear got ahold of some cocaine?” No, neither have I. So, let’s talk about the box office hit, “Cocaine Bear.” The 2023 R-rated film, directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden, is based on a semi-true story about a black bear that ingested “three to four grams” of cocaine after a drug dealer cop threw bags of cocaine out of a plane into the Tennessee forest to lighten its load. The corrupt cop tried to parachute out of the plane. However, his parachute malfunctioned, and he fell to his death. The true story is less thrilling and more of a tragedy. The real bear that ingested the drugs was found dead in the Georgia forest, and the rest of the cocaine was never located. (Could this mean “Cocaine Squirrel,” the sequel?) 

In the movie, however, the bear goes on a rampage in the forest, killing almost everyone in sight. Though it is a movie that includes violence, the film finds a way to show death without being excessively gory. It is done in a way where the viewer is left laughing instead of focusing on the blood and guts. If you’re worried that “Cocaine Bear” is a horror film, let me assure you, Disney’s animated movie “Brave” is more nightmare-inducing than this movie.

 Although“Cocaine Bear” is R-rated, I guess the whole family might enjoy it. Just ask the elderly couple who sat behind me and the family of seven with their four young children who sat in front of me. Now they really seemed to love it. Just kidding. You probably shouldn’t take small children to see this film. 

The movie is well-paced and does a great job keeping the viewers engaged for the 1 hour and 35-minute runtime. The constant change between characters and the film’s plot helps keep the audience hooked and the story in motion. This fast-moving pace is especially great for people who get bored easily.  

“Cocaine Bear” also features a handful of seasoned actors like Keri Russell, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Jesse Ferguson, and the late Ray Liotta. These actors and actresses do a really nice job embodying the characters they portray in the film. For example, Keri Russell seemed almost to draw from her own motherly instincts to protect her on-screen daughter Dee Dee,(Brooklynn Prince) from the bloodthirsty bear. Another actress, Margo Martindale, shined in her role as a park ranger. She added to the comedic relief, which was a surprising contrast to her more serious former roles in “The Watcher”(2022) and “Scalene” (2011). 

One of the film’s weaknesses for me were the two children characters, Dee Dee and Henry (Christian Convery). They both did excessive cursing that did not seem realistic for their ages. The director could have also expanded a bit more on a scene where the children ingested the cocaine. Also, some of the jokes did not land well. Especially for Dee Dee and Henry. I think when kids are featured in R-rated movies, the dialogue is way more explicit and exaggerated for the sake of appeal, yet it often falls short. Although it’s been a while since I was a pre-teen, I guess it is possible teenagers are excessively cursing these days. Lastly, the ending was a bit predictable because [SPOILER] the bear had an apparent soft spot for the children. 

Finally, to reiterate the film’s strength is its well-timed movie length. “Cocaine Bear” does a great job keeping the viewer entertained. Secondly, the humor was comparable to “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” with its mix of average Joe, dry humor and hilariously awkward moments but minus breaking the third wall. Lastly, the CGI bear was well-animated, and she experiences a happier ending than the real cocaine bear.  Overall, “Cocaine Bear” is a great movie in the thriller and comedy genre. While it is not suited for children, the movie has the potential to become a cult classic. A buzzword to describe this film is “camp,” which is “an aesthetic style and sensibility that admires bad taste and ironic value”( Camp classics: Top 10 camp movies). The film does a great job of not taking itself too seriously, and because of that, I’d give the movie a solid 4 out of 5. Will “Cocaine Bear” win an Oscar? Probably not, but it will entertain you and make you laugh? So, I would say it is definitely worth the watch.