Cocaine Bear Review – IGN

Neil deGrasse Tyson would probably be stomping his feet in anger at Cocaine Bear, repeatedly yelling “Wrong! Bears can’t do that!” over an increasingly annoyed theater crowd. But personally, I’m a huge fan of “deadly beast goes on a killing spree” films. I rent every mediocre shark attack movie when it launches straight to streaming because there’s something oddly satisfying about watching arrogant, headstrong, generally unlikeable surfers or college kids on a boating trip gone awry get torn to shreds. Cocaine Bear has all of those cheap, guilty pleasures in spades, but unlike something like Sharknado, its coked-up bear is actually convincing enough to be scary when it tears apart every morally questionable person it comes across.

So yes, Cocaine Bear is a very stupid movie. You probably guessed that from the pitch: a bear finds cocaine in the woods, eats it, and then very bad things happen. So it shouldn’t surprise you that this isn’t a thinking person’s film. Nor should it be. It’s a movie called “Cocaine Bear.” What is surprising, though, is how well it works, assuming you can meet it on its ridiculous terms.

The real-life story of an American black bear who ingested 75 pounds of cocaine in 1985 after a drug drop gone wrong ended in the bear’s instant death, obviously. In reality, bears can’t really handle 75 pounds of cocaine. Pretty much nobody can. The movie Cocaine Bear, on the other hand (or paw, I guess) proposes, “What if that bear had instead lived, and gone on a rampage through a dense forest, killing nearly everyone in its path while hunting down even more cocaine, a substance it has become quite fond of.” But unlike things like Snakes on a Plane – a movie that asks, “What if there were snakes on a plane?” – or Sharknado – a movie that asks “What if there were sharks in a tornado?” – Cocaine Bear is actually surprisingly well made. It’s both very funny and very violent, providing us with a comically blood-soaked day in the park with a murderous bear on cocaine.

It’s both very funny and very violent

Horror and comedy themes always have the chance to be at odds with each other, but in Cocaine Bear they bounce off each other well. That’s not just because the entire concept is absurd but also because every single person (and animal) on screen is fully, completely committed to the bit, and there’s an infectious sense that they were very clearly having an absolute blast making it. Characters and costumes are totally hammed up, from Ray Liotta’s sleazy drug kingpin grandfather to Margo Martindale’s self-absorbed and inept park ranger.

The writing itself can best be described as weird and absurdist, leaning in the direction of parodies like Wet Hot American Summer, Hot Rod, or Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. So if you’re not into that particular flavor of alt comedy, the jokes might be hit or miss for you. But the silver lining there is that if a comedian doesn’t click with you at a comedy club, you usually have to suffer through the rest of their set before they saunter off stage; but in Cocaine Bear, you’ll probably see them get promptly mauled to death.

The horror aspect of it is kind of like Jaws – no, this isn’t a Spielberg masterpiece, but stick with me for a second here. Jaws is a scary movie in part because sharks exist in the ocean and they occasionally attack people. So it played on the fear that you could become shark food the next time you spend the day at the beach, and it amped that fear up to 11 by making a shark that’s enormous and intentionally hunting people, which doesn’t really happen. Along the same lines, any of us might encounter a large bear on a camping trip or hike in real life, but none of us will ever encounter one on tons of cocaine. So a Cocaine Bear scenario will not happen to you or your family, and that makes it immensely fun watching it happen to other people, especially when several of those people don’t really have the best motives in mind.

The titular bear is an unstoppable killing machine.

It’s established early on that Cocaine Bear is very much not against brutally mauling or killing any of its characters in insane ways, and that the titular bear is an unstoppable killing machine. It’s huge, fast, and able to climb trees, knock down doors, or leap dozens of feet into the air to get what it wants. The bear itself was designed and animated by Weta FX, the New Zealand-based digital effects studio behind things like Lord of the Rings and Avatar, so suffice to say it looks and moves incredibly realistically, or at least as believably as one would imagine a bear hopped up on cocaine could be.

The kills here mostly work because they’re gory, maniacal, and often just straight-up hilarious. In reality, bears don’t generally bother to kill their victims before eating them, they just start ripping and tearing. Throw in cocaine and it’s definitely much less likely to handle its dinner with grace. It’s brutal, but you’re not quite rooting for most of the characters because many of them don’t have enough time to make a smart decision given the insane situation they’ve just found themselves in, and several of them are straight-up bad but likable people attempting to find cocaine themselves. You’re also not quite rooting for the bear because it’s a violent animal who finds cocaine, finds out it loves cocaine, and goes on a warpath to find more cocaine. Rather, we’re watching a bunch of chaotic elements get dumped into a forest and celebrating with selfish glee as they all begin to clash violently and comedically. When the bear shows up in a scene we have no idea if it’s fiending for human blood or its next fix, so anything could happen.

Cocaine is pretty much scattered everywhere in this movie, which seems crazy, but it kind of was back then. It was the mid ‘80s. Most of your favorite movies and music from that era were fueled almost entirely by small mountains of that white powdery substance, so even if you personally have a hard stance against the drug (I don’t mess with it myself) just by being a fan of those things you’re basically a byproduct of secondhand smoke. Or coke, I guess. There’s not really a message here because Cocaine Bear doesn’t overly romanticize cocaine or sternly denounce it beyond the fact that in this movie, doing a line (or eating a kilo) is the equivalent of teens having sex in a slasher movie. Rather, it uses cocaine as an ingredient that, when dumped liberally on a scene, causes everyone that interacts with it to become frenetic, obsessive, and insane. It’s like when Kamek the Magikoopa waves a magic wand over a boss fight in Super Mario or blood rains from the ceiling in the nightclub scene in Blade.