"Cocaine Bear" Review

Being home alone in what is functionally the Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania, means there’s not much to do, especially during spring break. I was bored. A couple of my friends who were also home on their spring break suggested we go to the movies. I wasn’t sure what was being shown, but I agreed to go anyway.

Later that night, on the way to buy whatever gas station candy we could smuggle into the theater, we checked what movies we could see. As my friends started bickering over whether to see Creed III or the newest Ant-Man movie, I held up my hands to silence them.

“Let’s see Cocaine Bear.”

It took a little convincing, but eventually, they conceded. Ant-Man would show up on Disney+ sooner rather than later. It was going to be an experience, I told them. And was it ever.

The new blockbuster is based on a true story — a drug smuggling run gone wrong, ending with over 80 pounds of cocaine being dumped in a national forest, only to be discovered and eaten by a bear. Here is where the similarities end, though. While the real bear died within minutes of consuming the drugs, her onscreen counterpart does anything but. What follows is 95 minutes of gore, guts, and goofs.

The movie follows several groups of characters: a mother looking for her runaway daughter, drug dealers charged by their boss/father to recover the cocaine, a cop trying to catch the drug dealers, a group of juvenile delinquents, Margot Martindale as the park ranger trying to seduce her coworker, and, of course, the rabid cocaine bear herself. Sound like a lot? Well, it kind of is, but it’s to the movie’s advantage. When I started to get a bit bored with a scene, the focus usually shifted to one of the other storylines.

Though there are some pacing problems, I think the movie shines in its over-the-top, absurd moments. I mean, the entire concept is absurd, but the ambulance scene, the kids eating the cocaine, and the bear mauling Jesse Tyler Furgeson are all scenes that stand out to me. The cherry on top is the fact that it is directed by Elizabeth Banks, whose other directorial work includes "Pitch Perfect 2" and the 2019 remake of "Charlie’s Angels." As I said, absurd.

There have been… mixed reviews of the movie, to say the least. I think the negative reviews mostly stem from a misunderstanding about what Cocaine Bear is. Is it high cinema? No. Is it stupid and fun? Absolutely. "Cocaine Bear" is this decade’s "Snakes on a Plane" or "Sharknado." Complete and utter absurdity, and it is fully aware of what it is. If you are going in expecting to be enlightened by the art of cinema, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you go into the theater with a couple of buddies and some smuggled Sheetz food, simply expecting a movie about a bear on cocaine, you are much more likely to enjoy the experience.