From the title itself, one can infer that “Cocaine Bear” is not a serious, melodramatic piece of cinema. It is exactly what one would expect it to be — the story revolves around a black bear doped on cocaine in a public park.
The film, directed by Elizabeth Banks, follows a variety of parkgoers including a nurse (Keri Russell) looking for her daughter, two drug dealers/best friends (Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who were sent by their boss (Ray Liotta) to find the coke, an uptight park ranger (Margo Martindale) and a police detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) investigating the whereabouts of the cocaine and who it was intended for. Over the course of the film, characters cross paths, and due to their contrasting objectives, violent conflicts outside of the brutal bear attacks will almost make one forget who the true antagonist was in the first place.
The film delivers on the action-comedy aspect by constantly reminding the audience how outrageous the idea of a bear hooked on cocaine is, especially considering that it is loosely based on a true story. Every time a character realizes why the bear is acting like a murderous maniac, the ridiculousness of it all is comically proclaimed, but the repetition does dampen the effects of the joke. Comedy is found outside of the cocaine bear’s story through the characters’ respective lives, but this humor does not always successfully land when some jokes become too broad even for a movie titled “Cocaine Bear.”
Nonetheless, the film contains more wins than losses when it comes to comedy, evident by the contagious laughter in the theater. The action is definitely overshadowed by the comedy, but the film maintains a high level of anticipation still. The suspense of not actually seeing the bear but knowing it is close gets the audience excited for it to emerge, especially when cocaine is involved. The bear’s priorities are established pretty early on when it shows that it will decimate anything in its path for another high. The bear’s speed, strength and unpredictability provide a great source of action that is entertaining to watch. Most notably, the bear chased a high-speed ambulance with the back doors open and launched itself inside. It demonstrates the film’s main point that if the bear wants to kill someone, it most definitely will.
However, the film does suffer from obvious plot holes that are hard to ignore. They are necessary in order to move the story along and provide certain characters incentives for being there, but it does not ease the frustration. This includes a scene where characters had a huge given opportunity to kill the bear but opted not to. Moreover, despite how the movie emphasizes the bear’s persistence to slaughter anyone in its path for cocaine — especially if the person has cocaine on them — the bear does not kill a character covered in it simply because it would ruin the story. The more one thinks about the movie after, the more flaws one will find in its plot which greatly diminishes the overall experience.
Artistically, Banks accomplishes a powerful tone often in scenes whether it is one of suspense, joy or thrill. The audience will find themselves laughing in one scene and flinching in the next. The movie is far from perfect so it is best to set expectations low, but then again one should know exactly what they are walking into. The movie is called “Cocaine Bear” and it revolves around a bear high on coke brutally ripping people apart. Does the film give the audience a newfound perspective on life, death and everything in between? No, but “Cocaine Bear” will entertain for an hour and a half and generate some laughs. Overall, it is certainly amusing and performs exactly as expected.