Plot: “An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.” -IMDB
Review: Scrolling through the modern-day dumpster fire that is Twitter, I landed on a trailer for a movie called Cocaine Bear. It took nothing more than a ridiculously named title to pique my curiosity. I clicked and let the hype wash over me. When the trailer ended, I needed more. I played it again. With months to go before the bear hit the big screen, I found myself giddy with anticipation. For a few years now, adult comedies have been absent from the cineplex. Cocaine Bear seemed like a movie with a simple plot, but a concept wild enough to be stretched into some imaginative and hilarious places. My expectations were through the roof.
15 minutes into the film, a Maya Angelou quote flashed before me and held my attention for the rest of the movie. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Of all the quotes in the world, why this one? Because this film is largely what they advertised in the trailer, but it could have been much more. All the pieces were there for it to be a truly great comedic film if only it could have delivered.
This film wastes little time revealing itself. The plot is paper thin. Alone, this does not sink the film. In fact, a drug smuggler dumping cocaine over a Georgia forest unleashing a fight for survival and the goods between law enforcement, clueless hikers, simple criminals, teens, a determined mother, park staff, and a murderous bear high on the supply was more than enough for me to chew one.
Much of this film feels like a callback to the best 70s and 80s B-movies. Like those movies, gore is used to build tension and intrigue. It also uses gruesome attacks to shock and elicit humor. The first roadblock for this film is that the gag quickly loses steam. By the time we escape a mauling inside a ranger station that gives way to an ambulance chase, the gore feels flat and pointless.
A weak second act also delivers a forced climax that feels bland and standard. It spends entirely too much time on a showdown between a cop and a couple of associates sent to retrieve cocaine-filled duffel bags from the woods. Slowing the pace seems understandable for a moment. The film begins with such frenetic energy that for the purposes of deepening the plot and world-building, it makes sense to collect ourselves. As a mechanism to deliver us to the final showdown, it ends up feeling like a nuisance.
Finally, this film leaves a lot of jokes on the table. I expected something funnier than just a cocaine-fueled bear and gore. A little more character development could have created a space for humor to flourish. Instead, we get something that feels fun but is rarely funny.
Pulling my challenges with this film together, you might assume my final verdict would encourage you to skip this film (I mean that is what it says at the top). If you consistently read my reviews, I am sorry for the confusion. But I want you to see this movie. It is honestly the best 2-star movie I have ever seen. What didn’t connect for me, may solidly land for you. Entering this forest may be the ideal adventure for you, but consider yourself warned.
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