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Review: Cocaine Bear

One thing that can't be argued about Elizabeth Banks' third film Cocaine Bear is that it fully delivers on that title. Like Snake on a Plane, the film has a winking sense of its own ridiculousness and commits to delivering on it. The results will vary by mileage. You likely know if you are the kind of person who wants to see a movie about a coked-up bear killing people. And while I admire the film's commitment to the gag, it lacks the high I was hoping for.

Cocaine Bear is part gory slasher, albeit with a bear, and part wacky comedy. Banks tries to balance these tones but is only occasionally effective. While the film delivers some shocking gory effects, it never has a real sense of tension. Banks has a wonderful sense of humor and has been in some cult classics like Wet Hot American Summer. I wish she leaned a bit more into the absurd tone here. Only occasionally does the film land a big laugh.

While the humor is sporadic, the film does feature some likable performances. Keri Russell has the lead role as a mom who's trying to locate her daughter while the bear is running loose. Brooklynn Prince plays her daughter and is teamed up with young scene-stealing actor Christian Convery. Russell gets the perk of playing the only smart and kind person in the film. Ray Liotta, in his final on-screen role, plays a nasty villain who kicks bear cubs and likes to kill people. The rest of the cast is bear food, set up just to die on-screen moments later.

The film is based loosely on a true story that involved a drug smuggler who dumped a bunch of bags of cocaine over the mountains in Tennessee and then jumped out but died when his parachute didn't open. It was discovered later that a bear had gotten into the drug and overdosed and died. It is a strange origin for a comedy but screenwriter Jimmy Warden invents the rest. The thin plot is mostly a way to connect various scenes of carnage or buffoonery.

Cocaine Bear is a moderately fun film. I know I will end up watching parts of this on cable for years to come. I wish the humor had been pushed into more absurd places and was more consistent. However, the film delivers on its title, there is plenty of coked-up bear action here.



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