Anna Peterson ’25
Cocaine Bear, Cocaine Bear, Cocaine Bear. Among the drone of mainstream commercial theater money grabs, it is a name that sparks curiosity. But it seems the film fails to live up to the hype of such a catchy title.
Set in 1985, Andrew C. Thorton (Matthew Rhys) falls out of a plane to his death, strapped with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Fortunate for our viewing purposes, the elusive Cocaine Bear discovers the drugs, and the chaos begins. In its drug-induced rampage, the bear hunts down an array of people: drug dealers, children, park rangers, delinquent teenagers, hikers, paramedics, and a detective.
Central to the story’s plot is mother Sari (Keri Russel), who takes to the woods after realizing her young daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) and neighbor Henry (Christian Convery) have ditched school. Following suit, low-level drug dealers Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) venture into the forest to search for the missing paraphernalia. However, Cocaine Bear threatens the goals and existence of each of these characters as the drug bender ensues.
This movie was not good, and I don’t care what other critics say. The film’s only redeeming quality was this distinct aspect of nonsense. Yet, this quality alone does not make the movie entertaining. Absurdity without substance negates all meaning. The movie constantly delivers scene after scene of useless gore. At some point, shock value was deemed more important than a decent plot line.
Spliced between all the gore, director Elizabeth Banks tries to make me give a shit about surface-level characters whose backgrounds are never fleshed out. In fact, a new character was thrust at my screen every 10 minutes just for me to care less and less until their inevitable death. During these scenes of strict character dialogue and perpetual boredom, I couldn’t help but root for the bear to take me and the characters out of our collective miseries.
Additionally, with so many new faces and stories shoved into a 90-minute movie, the film struggles to develop what it wants to communicate outside of a talented CGI specialist team. In any scene where the bear was absent, so was my mind. The film also pulls at straws when dictating who the bad guy is — is it the nosey detective, criminal teens, the drug lord, or just Cocaine Bear?
At one point, the movie grasps for a man versus nature conflict, only to contradict itself by condemning some of the characters and not others. This film plays favorites when determining who faces the wrath of Cocaine Bear. Ultimately, this scenario works against the film’s narrative of Cocaine Bear’s behavior as erratic and reads as a blatant attempt to preserve the main characters for a happy ending. In short, the director insults the audience with an illogical directorial choice.
Although, the most offensive part of this film is the waste of talent. With actors like Brooklyn Prince of The Florida Project, Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family, and rising star Aaron Holliday, I expected a firework display of performance and dynamic. Instead, the actors seemed peripheral to the spectacle of Cocaine Bear, stifling their ability to impress. Elizabeth Banks does not foster performance; she drowns it with an over-the-top plot.
As I propped myself up in the AMC reclining movie theater seat, I wondered what I did to deserve my lost $22. No amount of popcorn or peanut M&Ms could reverse the damage inflicted upon my frontal cortex by watching this movie. If you decide to watch Cocaine Bear, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Image Source: IGN