"Cocaine Bear:" The Most Fun You'll Ever Have at The Movies
For months now, rumors have been floating around about a new movie centered around a murderous, savage bear high on cocaine, simply titled: Cocaine Bear. This week, audiences got to see the legend come to life on the big screen with Elizabeth Bank's new horror-comedy. Despite the utterly ridiculous premise, the film displays competent writing hilarious comedy, and will give you the most fun experience you've ever had at your local movie theater.
Based on one of the wildest true stories of all time, Cocaine Bear tells a heavily embellished story of "Pablo Escobear," an American Black Bear who ingested 75lbs ($14 million) of smuggled cocaine in Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest in 1985. Unlike the film, the real bear did not kill anyone or even come into contact with any humans while it was alive, its body was simply found by law enforcement after it died. Today, the real Pablo Escobear is a taxidermy sculpture in the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, KY.
Needless to say the story has been revised significantly in order to make an entertaining movie that audiences would want to watch. A wild animal on a murderous rampage isn't the most original story but Elizabeth Banks and company do it well at creating one of the most stupidly enjoyable movies of 2023 so far. Cocaine Bear is a great movie not in spite of its absurdity, but because of it. It gets its strength from knowing exactly what it is and not trying to hide behind some phone veil of auteurism or prestige. It's a bear on cocaine, what more could you possibly want?
I have not had this much fun in a movie theater since 2019's Cats. Everybody in my small theater was so hyped to see a coked-out Black Bear wreak havoc in a park. People would cheer and clap during certain scenes and occasionally just yell "COCAINE BEAR!" While this certainly isn't the most orthodox viewing experience, it was amazing to see how much a movie can bring people together and bring so much joy to those who may need it.
In terms of production design, Cocaine Bear has a palpable yet realistic view of the 1980's, and because its an Elizabeth Banks film, the comedy is absolutely stellar. There were several moments during my theater experience where the entire audience just burst into uncontrollable laughter and even applause midway through the runtime. Some standout performances are Keri Russell, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Alden Ehrenreich, and Margo Martindale who all bring so much humor and charisma to their respective roles. I would've loved to see a cameo from Banks who also works as an actor but I guess that'll just need to be saved for Cocaine Bear 2. The film also served as Ray Liotta's last screen performance before his death in May of 2022. Boy, what a film to leave with.
Cocaine Bear was a lot more gory than I could've anticipated, I know it's about bear attacks but there sure was a lot of blood and guts. The kills were always done in a stomach-churning yet creative way. There's also a slightly underwritten subplot about the drug smugglers in charge of the cocaine but it did little to take away from the entertaining nature of the film.
I'm sure this is a surprise to absolutely nobody but the titular bear is created entirely with CGI because the actions of the bear would be downright impossible to recreate with a live animal. This added significantly to the production cost, with half the budget being given to the special effects team who worked on the bear. However, this led to a more humane filming environment where there was no chance of an animal being hurt or exploited like they did back when animal actors were more common.
Even though Cocaine Bear has only been out for less than a week, it has already garnered significant media buzz and lines worth of customers at the box office purely because of its ridiculous name and subject matter. There's no doubt that it was an insanely risky move to put out a movie called Cocaine Bear in a film environment that's currently filled with high-brow, dialogue-heavy dramas. It's the kind of risk that's kind of only being done by studios like A24 but I hope the success of Cocaine Bear makes studios realize that audiences are willing to see the most ludicrous things the human brain can think of. I hope Elizabeth Banks' film will usher in a new era of unapologetically ridiculous cinema made to put a smile on your face.