The good, the bad, and the bear

by Nathan Serwold, Staff

Content Warning: Drug use, overdose, light movie spoilers, un-detailed descriptions of gore

Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Well, mostly bears. Actually, only bears. “Cocaine Bear” tells the hilarious, gory, and suspenseful tale of a bear that ingested a large portion of 70 lbs of lost cocaine dropped from the sky by drug lord Andrew C. Thorton II. While the film is based on the somber true story of a Tennessee black bear who tragically overdosed on cocaine, the plot is wholly fictitious. 

“Cocaine Bear” is not a traditional horror film. Written by actor-turned-director, Elizabeth Banks, the film is mainly focused on the comedy aspect, despite the inclusion of light gore and occasional moments of fleeting suspense. Overall, I enjoyed the film, and there were more things to love than to hate. Still, the film doesn’t bring the charm of Bank’s performance as Effie Trinket in “The Hunger Games,” and I know she has greater things coming.

First, let’s start with the characters. I felt that all of the characters had realistic relationships, and a lot of their stories felt real. These could be real people, and I thoroughly enjoyed the clever writing and delivery on each line spoken by the actors. That being said, the sheer size of the cast and the run-on side plots left a lot of character building to be desired. Most characters got no explanation for why they acted certain ways, and many plotlines were left unfinished, my least favorite being a gang of three teenage boys who terrorize the national park for seemingly no reason. However, the more relevant characters brought a lot to the movie, and I found myself glad many of my favorite characters survived the ordeal. 

The production of the film is one of its best parts. “Cocaine Bear” is a film full of beautiful forest scenery, and is one of the prettiest movies I have seen in a while. Pans across the Tennessee wilderness bring the story to life, and the setting of the movie brings much to the plot as well. The film is full of tense scenes, and uses the forest to conceal the bear in a way that feels realistic. I didn’t like that many of the bear’s scenes didn’t actually feature the bear at all, though this was likely due to budget constraints. Another thing I disliked was the monotonous use of the one CG leg they seemed to have access to. This did, however, bring a pleasant, yet gory surprise when one character was left decapitated. In scenes that did feature appearances of the bear, its CGI looked phenomenal and I only wish I could have seen it more. 

I have never been a fan of horror and slasher movies, and I often struggle with what I like to call movie anxiety, where movies bring out my anxious habits such as gnawing at my fingernails. That being said, that was not an issue with “Cocaine Bear,” and I believe this movie can be enjoyed regardless of one’s thoughts on the horror genre. Comedy is where this movie shines, and many scenes left the whole theater chuckling. My biggest piece of advice would be to watch the trailer. If it looks like something you might like? Watch it. The movie is everything it promised, albeit not much more. 

My two biggest issues with the movie are as follows. There weren’t enough animals, and the majority of the movie is simply a little bland. The movie takes place in a forest. The whole premise of the movie is that an animal snarfed down millions of dollars of cocaine, and yet, throughout the entire movie, there are three different species of animal shown. Three scenes containing a small dog, the main bear and later, her two cubs, and a herd of sheep right before the end credits. Neither the sheep nor the dog brought anything to the movie, and the only animals in the entire forest were the main bears. With how nice the bear CGI looked, I was really looking forward to seeing a deer or some wild bunnies or just something. Instead, I got the same bear, over and over again. 

Despite all of the things I disliked, I left the theater enthused. In reflection, though, I found myself neither regretting the time I spent on it, nor did I find myself thinking that I would need to watch it again. It’s a fun laugh with your friends, but don’t take any young kids or anyone too sensitive to blood and gore. 0/10 date idea. On all other fronts, a solid 6.5/10. 

“Cocaine Bear” is rated R, in theaters now and available to rent ($20) on some platforms.