Andrea’s Angle | “Cocaine Bear” – Uproariously Funny
Even the title of this film grabbed me. It sounded absurd but also like it would be hilarious. And with a cast like Keri Russell, Ray Liotta, Margo Martindale, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, I was fairly certain it would be fun. Ultimately, it lives up to the absurdity that I expected, it is uproariously funny, and the acting is fantastic. I especially love how strong Keri Russell’s character is. But it does go way over the top, has a very simple story, and has some design issues with both the bear and those the bear attacks.
Cocaine Bear is a dark comedy action film directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden. It is loosely based on a true story of the “Cocaine Bear,” an American black bear that ingested a duffel bag full of cocaine in 1985. In the film, the bear goes on a rampage, attacking both locals and tourists alike. During the attack, several individuals end up in the bear’s territory. Sari (Kerri Russell) is attempting to find her daughter DeeDee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery). The Park Ranger, Liz (Margo Martindale), and an inspector, Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), attempt to assist her. Meanwhile, the drug dealer Sid (Ray Liotta) sends his man Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr), along with his son Eddy (Alden Ehrenreich), up to the mountain to locate the missing cocaine. Even police detective Bob (Isaiah Whitlock Jr) goes up to look into the drugs. Ultimately, they must all work together to survive the crazed bear.
One of the best elements of the film is the humor. Much of it is dark and bloody in nature, but it keeps the audience laughing from beginning to end. One of the best factors as to why it is so funny is the attacks by the bear and the absurd ways in which it goes nuts for cocaine and finds new ways to attack people. One of the funniest moments is an attack on an ambulance with the bear leaping into the air to jump inside. While it is far-fetched, it still makes you laugh. It is also the way the bear lights up with a crazed look anytime there is cocaine in the area.
Some of the humorous moments are also in the dialogue. Isaiah Whitlock Jr. has a great line. “There’s an apex predator high on cocaine, and you’re going to walk towards it.” That line sums up the craziness of the scenes and the humor in the situation. But it is also one of the best lines in the film. There is also an interaction between the character of Daveed and a teenage group of thugs. In the scene, he bemoans the fate of his jersey. Moments like that and the scenario as a whole are what kept me entertained and laughing.
While the story is simple, the acting is not. Kerri Russell is impressive as mom Sari, locating her children despite the crazy situation. The children also are fantastic, especially Christian Convery as Henry. He has some of the funniest lines in the entire film. Isaiah Whitlock Jr. is both funny but also full of heart as the detective, playing an otherwise sane and smart character. Margo Martindale and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, despite not getting as much screen time as I’d like, both do an incredible job of providing humorous scenes for the movie. Ray Liotta is dark and phenomenal, albeit in a fairly stereotypical role for someone of his talent. O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich stand out in their performances, providing heart and someone for the audience to empathize with.
What puzzles me is this film is on the edge of brilliance. If it had been darker humor or not as absurd, it would have been much more satirical. The elements are all there; at the film’s beginning, we see the war on drugs lambasted. But instead, the film goes in a deliberately absurd direction, deciding not to take anything seriously, not even the deaths of those individuals the bear kills. The deaths are completely over the top, with blood and limbs torn off that doesn’t look remotely realistic. The bear appears fake about half the time. And the story is too simple, with no complexity at all. If there had been less absurdity and more dark comedy, this would have been more original. As it stands, it is still incredibly funny but misses taking that next step to brilliance.
If you like comedy and adult humor, with slapstick and blood, this is the film for you. It is uproariously funny. The performances are fantastic, and I really like Keri Russell as she tries to survive a bear high on cocaine. The absurdity of it all does keep you laughing throughout the movie. But like the blood that isn’t real, the movie misses the mark to be something more. Audiences will still laugh and enjoy themselves, but it could have been so much more.
Rating: 3.5 duffle bags out of 5
Official Website: Cocaine Bear | Trailer & Movie Site | In Theaters Now
Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, this wild dark comedy finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500- pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood.
COCAINE BEAR opens exclusively in theaters nationwide on February 24, 2023.
ONE-LINER: Get in line.