It honestly feels as though I was about to repeat myself because on the occasion of writing up my thoughts on Plane I managed to weave it around the concept of February being a singular time in the year where you can get to see movies that normally would head straight either to your local bargain bin or to the far corner of the Netflix library. And here we go again because Cocaine Bear is available for you to see in cinemas and – to make it a little bit more bizarre and culturally intriguing – it seems to be bringing a reasonable box office revenue, despite the fact it is barely a functioning movie.
Quite frankly, at this point I may be too afraid to ask how Cocaine Bear came together as an idea for a film, earned a studio backing, attracted the attention of such names as Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich and Ray Liotta to act in it, made its way through multiple stages of production and eventually saw theatrical release. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it had originated as a bit of a joke of the “wouldn’t it be cool if someone made a movie out of this” variety. I can even visualize a bunch of folks sitting in a bar, nursing their fifth pint of beer, and talking about random nonsense they found on the Internet before one of them alerted the group to that old story about that bear from the 80s which found a bag of cocaine, ate it all, keeled over and died, and was later found, stuffed and displayed in a mall somewhere in Tennessee. They all perk up, their minds switch on, their imaginations begin to run wild, and their heads quickly fill with a number of what-if questions.
What if that bear got addicted to cocaine? What if the immense amount of coke got it really wired and made it run super-fast? What if it went on a murder rampage while on coke? Dude, someone needs to make a movie about it!
And that someone is Elizabeth Banks, the actor-turned-director known for her remake of Charlie’s Angels and one of the Pitch Perfect sequels, working from a script written by a guy called Jimmy Warden, who may or may not have written the screenplay for this film after a late-night binge of the kind I outlined a few paragraphs above.
However, as the experience of watching Cocaine Bear quickly reveals, it may not have been that easy to come up with a story that would hold enough water to substantiate a whole movie out of the meme of a bear getting high on cocaine and going on a killing spree. In fact, I don’t quite believe the filmmakers cared enough to have a functioning story in there to begin with and they settled for a small handful of narrative excuses that would get a bunch of people into a forest where the bear roamed – at full speed – jacked to the nipples on Colombian Splenda. After all, the concept alone was titillating enough to simply disregard any fundamental notions of imbuing the story with compelling characters or plotting out a chain of events that would be interesting to follow.
Therefore, it does not matter one iota that a chunk of this story concerns itself with a mother (Keri Russell) looking for her daughter (Brooklynn Prince) in the woods after finding out she ditched school, or that another subplot of the movie is dedicated to following two goons (Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr) as they are sent by a drug kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta) to retrieve the lost illicit sweetener. Or that somewhere in the story we also follow a local law enforcement officer who got himself a dog he is not too fond of. Or that a park ranger has the hots for a local wildlife expert. Or that we also get to follow a trio of local juvenile delinquents. Or that all these characters will eventually cross paths with each other. We are here to see them cross paths with a wired bear. Which we do.
So, being polite and all, it is only logical to describe Cocaine Bear as terminally stupid because – come to think of it – none of what transpires on the screen ever makes enough sense for us to suspend our disbelief. In fact, we may be better off if we persist in a state of perpetual disbelief of what unfolds before our eyes and treat the movie as though it was just a tiny bit developmentally stunted. It’s truly no use pointing out narrative flaws or giving the actors a run for their money on the back of the fact they all shout a lot, or that literally all scenes that do not involve bear-originated violence exude directorial confidence of a high school play. For all I care, Cocaine Bear should be treated like Sharknado… but with a bear. And cocaine, I suppose.
Now, this isn’t a dig. In actuality, it is a massive compliment because a movie like Cocaine Bear shouldn’t really exist in the way that it does. Normally, a film like this would be a straight-to-streaming at best and direct-to-SyFy production bankrolled by The Asylum studio known for such mockbusters as Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus or Snakes on a Train. Nobody in their right mind should have ever earmarked more than a million dollars for it, nor even had the audacity to think of picking up the phone to ask Ray Liotta if he was interested. But somehow – magically perhaps – Cocaine Bear came together as a concept, someone was convinced to splurge on special effects and the movie now ends with a dedication to Ray Liotta, who sadly passed away recently. In any case, the whole thing started to look like a genuinely fun project to be a part of, all of which for the most part translates into the fact that the movie is genuinely fun to watch, even though you should realize after roughly thirty minutes that nobody was ever interested in turning this Pablo Escobear meme into a story worth telling.
All things considered, Cocaine Bear is a bona fide curiosity that miraculously elbowed its way into your local cinema to entertain with ample amounts of violence and gore, raise a few eyebrows by way of showing young kids eating Colombian Splenda, and thoroughly discombobulate the viewer with its borderline braindead narrative framing of the entire affair. So, filter what I have to say about this film through the fact that as far as star-ratings and reviews go, Cocaine Bear doesn’t exist in the same universe with The Godfather or Jaws. It exists in a universe with Sharknado and direct-to-SyFy sequels to Lake Placid. However, even this distinction is at the very least unfair because this movie’s budget is big enough to sponsor the production of at least ten further sequels to Sharknado. So, in a way it is a frankly unique specimen that is destined to become a cult classic and will definitely turn into a franchise that will eventually continue to get milked by The Asylum producers in crossovers with Sharktopus and Crocaconda.