There’s a bear high on mass quantities of illegal drugs that is going on a murderous rampage in a Tennessee state park in “Cocaine Bear,” an absolutely awful action / horror movie from director Elizabeth Banks. I understand with a premise like that, it’s supposed to be stupid. The problem is that the movie isn’t just dumb, it’s actually bad, with poor direction, acting, CGI, writing, and storytelling.
Loosely based on true events (yes, really), the film is inspired by the 1985 story of a drug runner’s plane crash. In order to save a large quantity of cocaine, the man threw out several duffel bags full of the stuff over Tennessee and then jumped to his death when his parachute didn’t open. A black bear got into the drugs, consumed most of it and, according to experts, immediately died. This movie imagines what could have happened if the bear didn’t die from ingesting all that booger sugar. In this bloody and gory version, the 500 pound apex predator goes bananas and kills everyone in sight.
It’s a fictional story that is stretched too thin, especially with the meager subplots about a single mom (Keri Russell), her missing daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and friend (Christian Convery), a group of criminals (Ray Liotta, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich), two park rangers (Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a police detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and random tourists and teenagers that must think on their toes in order to avoid being the bear’s next victim. Jimmy Warden‘s script is atrocious because he’s trying to force a story that’s not at all compelling nor complex. The actors give clunky performances and character-wise, there just isn’t a whole lot to root for.
Banks isn’t the most skilled director, and a film like this certainly doesn’t demand a whole lot of talent behind the camera. But there’s something that consistently feels “off” with her style and tone, especially in the random, mostly unsuccessful jokes. The humor didn’t work for me at all, and when I did muster a laugh, I wasn’t doing so because the movie was good — I was laughing because the movie was so dumb. I understand that a movie about a huge bear ingesting a bounty of blow is supposed to be dumb, but it also has to be good in order to work, and this movie is not.
To become a cult classic, a movie must be one that you’d want to watch on repeat. “Cocaine Bear” is simply not funny enough, not campy enough, and not kooky enough to succeed. It’s nothing but a one-joke trainwreck.