• Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Review: Cocaine Bear

ByMolly Turley

Mar 12, 2023
Black bear

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s a popular saying that if you poke the bear, you’re guaranteed to get hurt. Especially if that bear is in a drug-fuelled rampage. I am, of course, talking about Cocaine Bear, a long-anticipated film since it was first announced in 2021. Inspired by real events that occurred in 1985 Elizabeth Banks’ new film is everything you’d expect it to be: a grizzly attempt at embracing preposterousness.

I had a feeling this film wouldn’t be deeply serious and have meaningful takes on themes such as man against nature, but I was at least hoping for it to be entertaining. As the title cards opened quoting black bear facts lifted directly from Wikipedia I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. In fact, Cocaine Bear succeeds because of its blatantly absurd conformity to cliché. I’ve always been a fan of parody movies (à la Shaun of the Dead), but this film deliberately stares in the face of convention and mines it for as many gags as possible.

There are deliberately terrible characters who have no clue what to do, like Margo Martindale’s excellent portrayal of the bumbling park ranger who can’t aim her gun quite literally for the life of her. There’s typical blood and gore that’s then subverted by the bear doing lines of coke off severed limbs (a point where I was unable to keep it together anymore). The film even includes classic ill-timed upbeat pop songs, fuelled by 80s hits like Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ as the injured characters are attacked in a speeding ambulance. At its best, Cocaine Bear takes the norms of horror and makes them feel new and exciting through a blazing display of farcical caricature.

This is not to say that Cocaine Bear isn’t bad. The plot suffers due to too many characters (some of whom are acted quite badly) and a need for a resolution for each one. Other structural weaknesses include an uncomfortable number of switches between genres and various cutaways to reveal random subplots that have no bearing on the plight of the characters. What seems like an attempt to be edgy and offbeat instead comes off as childish. Yet despite how bad it is technically, there is simply no choice but to grin and bear the glorious stupidity of Cocaine Bear, purposefully presenting something so chaotically spoof-like that all the audience can do is be amused.

Cocaine Bear presents an exhilarating alternative to stereotypical animal revenge, bringing a whole new (and hilarious) meaning to Shakespeare’s immortal stage directions, ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’. If you’re in search of a laugh or even attempting to avoid upcoming essay deadlines, this film serves as the perfect opportunity. Personally, I’m anxiously awaiting the announcement of a similarly themed sequel – Ecstasy Badger, maybe?

Image: Black Bear” by Eric Kilby is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.