Campy horror returns to the big screen with Cocaine Bear, Elizabeth Bank’s newest violent comedy that does exactly what it says on the tin – provides a goofy and so-bad-its-good adventure film with a bear literally on drugs terrorizing its large cast.
Set in the mid-1980s, a bag full of drugs is dropped into the mountains and consumed by the eponymous bear. Unluckily for them, Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friend Henry (Christian Convery) happen to skip school and head to the woods for some sun before they encounter the bear. Along the trail are also Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and his friend Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) who are in search of the cocaine for their druglord, a ranger (Margo Martindale), and some local thugs aiming to terrorize the community, each of whom happen to cross the bear at his worst.
Based on the true story of a black bear found in Georgia in 1985 after consuming drugs dropped by plane by a drug smuggler (and subsequently taxidermied) this exploitation film takes the side of the animal against the humans in the forest, ripping them apart as a sort of a turn on the idea of man vs wild.
As Bank’s third directorial effort after Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie’s Angels, she does well leaning into the comical violence and balances it nicely with the family-centered story that gives the film its heart and throughline. Its influences are clear and it combines the styles and themes of other films in a refreshing way, underlined by a strong music soundtrack.
Cocaine Bear is a sharp and funny film that feels perfectly placed to be released right now and keeps you captivated the whole time. Not for the faint-hearted, it’s an enjoyable experience for those who leave behind their assumptions and take it for what it is.