Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Cocaine Bear

Title: Cocaine Bear

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
ANGRY MOB: We're here! We're queer! We don't want any more bears!
LENNY: Hey Homer, that's a pretty catchy chant. Where'd you learn it?
HOMER: Oh, I heard it at the mustache parade they have every year.
Brief Plot Synopsis: ...seriously?

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 glory holes out of 5.
Tagline: "Get in line."

Better Tagline: Nope. Can't top that one.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Georgia doesn't get much snow, until the night a smuggler drops several dozen kilos of cocaine from his plane onto the Chattahoochee National Forest. The cocaine is discovered by a black bear, which enjoys it immensely, bloodily crossing the paths of: a nurse (Keri Russell) and her errant daughter (Brooklynn Prince); a park ranger (Margo Martindale) and her would-be paramour (Jesse Tyler Ferguson); and two drug dealers (O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Alden Ehrenreich) and their boss (Ray Liotta).
"Critical" Analysis: Loosely (heavy emphasis on that word) based on a 1985 incident in which a smuggled cocaine shipment was preemptively dumped — as if by Han Solo (Ehrenreich reference!) at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser — over the Georgia and consumed by a bear. This Elseworlds reimagining of that event ignores the fact that the actual bear died almost immediately.

That's because overdoses are depressing, while a totally zooted black bear dismembering an assortment of hapless idiots is naturally hilarious. It's apparent early on that director Elizabeth Banks wants us on the bear's side, and to that end, saves the worse punishment for those of a less sympathetic bent.

Cocaine Bear is likely the most on-the-nose movie title since 2006's Snakes On A Plane, though both arrived at them through different avenues. In the case of Snakes, star Samuel L. Jackson demanded that the title not be changed. While in the case of Cocaine Bear, the producers simply ran out of time to replace their placeholder.

Although it's more fun to think Margo Martindale refused to continue if they changed the name.

Side note: you've got quite the mini-Americans reunion going with Russell, Martindale, and Matthew Rhys (as doomed smuggler Andrew Thornton). More intriguing is a convincing Ehrenreich, which will doubtless launch a thousand scorching hot "Solo is good, actually" takes (it wasn't *terrible*, but let's not go nuts).
click to enlarge
Fine, it ain't ... Shakesbeare.
And the rest of the cast are pretty game for the shenanigans. Russell is all in as the tracksuit-clad mom on a mission, and Martindale's dimwitted ranger is almost as dangerous as the bear itself. Whether or not you think it's sad that this was Liotta's last movie, just be glad he didn't kick it after Hubie Halloween. In either case, it remains to be seen if this makes the "In Memorian" reel at next month's Oscars.

But none of the various subplots are bringing people to the theater. And at the risk of over-Simpson-izing this review, the movie risks the audience asking, "Where's Cocaine Bear?" whenever Cocaine Bear isn't onscreen.

Otherwise, Banks exhibits a sure hand here, keeping things tense enough to mostly prevent you from remembering the goofiness of the concept. Likewise, the F/X is pretty damn acceptable, especially when you consider how cocaine can make you unsteady and jittery. The needle drops are well executed, and the period soundtrack is mostly spot-on.

On the pantheon of movies about animals doing drugs, Cocaine Bear ranges somewhere above Bachelor Party (RIP, sex donkey) and somewhere below Fritz the Cat, take that endorsement as you will.

Cocaine Bear is in theaters today.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar