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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Review: ‘Cocaine Bear’

Cocaine Bear
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Cocaine Bear

Loosely based on a true story, the title of “Cocaine Bear” is everything an audience needs to know. The trailer goes a step further, promising theatrical absurdity and violent kills. To some extent, the film lives up to its name due to the iconic bear at the center. For the large amount of the movie without her, however, the fun is inconsistent. 

“Cocaine Bear” follows a large ensemble of characters in a Tennessee National Forest as they confront the freshly intoxicated black bear. Some of these characters are great. For example, a park ranger is one of the only characters with a gun, and she uses it to hilarious effect. The tough guy trapped in the middle of a drug deal is similarly a great presence. For every entertaining character, though, there are generally more stable ones. The main characters — a mom and two kids — are particularly dull. 

At its campiest, the film can be a lighthearted treat. The cocaine bear herself marks a lot of these standout moments. Without her, there’s a reliance on character interactions, which grow very stale. That’s to be expected, but the highs of the cocaine bear don’t overcome the lows of everything else. The R-rated slasher might’ve benefitted from more gore. The best kills can feel pretty watered down. 

That tug-of-war between occasional action and constant chatter is burdened with a desperation for a 90-minute runtime. Unfortunately, the pacing constantly suffers as a result. Pushing the plot along as quickly as possible from kill to kill, the plethora of characters overstuff and weigh the narrative down. Even with a premise so simple, “Cocaine Bear” has way too much going on.

Most of the film flies by well enough, but everything begins to fall apart in the third act. The first 30-minutes or so are a great time. Characters are introduced, some early jokes are great and folks are killed off pretty quickly. The longer the movie goes on, the more it loses its charm. Suddenly real villains and emotional stakes are introduced. An effort for a climax is never as intriguing as the earlier playfulness. Surprisingly, I got bored. 

On the plus side, and maybe even more surprisingly, “Cocaine Bear” is pretty competently directed by Elizabeth Banks. The narrative ridiculousness is met by stylishly goofy camerawork. Even if the action isn’t particularly engaging, it’s easy to tell what’s going on. Aside from the dimly lit and uninteresting finale, most of the significant set pieces are pretty well done. Banks puts in a real effort to keep the visuals interesting even when not so much is going on. That doesn’t entirely pay off, but the effort is notable. 

“Cocaine Bear” is a good time. It knows what it is and doesn’t try to be much else beyond it; a bear snorts a lot of cocaine and goes on a rampage. Everything in between varies in success. It’s a short watch and the kind of goofy February movie to be expected, but it’s too uneven to sustain itself for the whole runtime. Its expendability is its best trait, but “Cocaine Bear” deserved to be more memorable. 

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