Movie Review: Cocaine Bear

There's more than just an attention-grabbing title to this smart, over-the-top comedy.


Listen, the bear does cocaine and then does bear things, but on cocaine. We can go into further detail if you’d like, but I assure you: You’re getting precisely what you expect in “Cocaine Bear.”

Based on a curious (though much more tame) real-life incident from 1985, “Cocaine Bear” — a title which rivals “Snakes on a Plane” for beautiful simplicity — takes place in a fictionalized version of Chattahoochee National Forest. A manic drug dealer boards a small aircraft and tries to fake his own death; he chucks kilos of coke out of the plane and dons a parachute, planning to jump then reclaim the drugs. With a slapstick head-bonk, though, he botches the descent and winds up dead — with cocaine all over the forest below.

Various groups of characters wind up involved in the mishaps that follow. Two pre-teens ditching school (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery) find the coke and dare each other to try it; a panicked mother (Keri Russell) begins a search after she notices the kids are missing. A small-time kingpin (Ray Liotta) sends his underlings (O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich) to recover the goods. A hapless park ranger (Margo Martindale) and her would-be beau, an animal researcher (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), take a break from chasing troublemakers to search the forest.

That’s not even all the players, as the smart script (from relative newcomer Jimmy Warden) sets up a dozen or so unsuspecting characters for encounters with the titular ursine terror. Warden is careful, though, to deftly give just enough development and backstory to his roster of bear bait. We know enough about each star to care about their survival, without weighing the film down with flashbacks and exposition.

The whole affair is kept swift and breezy by director Elizabeth Banks, who shows remarkable control — the film clocks in at 95 minutes, a blessedly breezy pace these days — and a knack for genuine, over-the-top comedy. Banks, who previously directed the similarly funny “Pitch Perfect 2,” mines genuine laughs out of the absurd premise with skillful timing and carefully deployed mayhem; she knows precisely what she’s doing and should be given the reins more often on big-screen comedies.

“Cocaine Bear” is in no way profound or surprising; it does precisely what it sets out to do and does it well. You’ll need a strong appetite for outlandish gore, twisted humor and bad behavior — in fact, you probably know without seeing it if you’re gonna like it. Does “Cocaine Bear” sound like a good time to you? Then buy a ticket; you’ll get your money’s worth.

My Rating: 7/10

“Cocaine Bear” is now playing in theaters.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner