I cocan’t bear it: a review of ‘Cocaine Bear’

‘Cocaine Bear’ fails to deliver, lacks protagonist, character dimensionality

Sam Froum, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

For too long, bears and cocaine have been kept separate in cinema, but with the release of new R-rated, action/thriller Cocaine Bear, this barrier has finally been broken. The plot of Cocaine Bear is simple: a drug dealer leaves cocaine in a forest, where it is consumed by a bear. As you would expect, the bear then becomes a bloodthirsty murdering machine who violently rips apart unsuspecting hikers. Fans were excited for the movie, showing up to theaters and propelling it to a successful 23 million dollar debut weekend.

However, I did not like Cocaine Bear. I wanted to like Cocaine Bear, I tried to like Cocaine Bear, but I couldn’t. I walked into the theater excited for 90 minutes of laughter and excessive gore, but as the movie went on I wondered, “Where are the laughs? Why don’t I sympathize with the characters? Why does that annoying little blond kid have so many lines?” By the time the credits rolled I was slouched over in my seat, filled with disappointment. I pondered why Cocaine Bear had left me in this saddened state, and came to the conclusion that it had failed on two fronts: characters and comedy.

One of the most important components of all good movies, TV shows and books are  characters that you can root for. Every one of their victories feels like a victory of your own, and every one of their defeats feels like a punch to the gut. 

This is not the case with Cocaine Bear. In Cocaine Bear, most of the characters were so boring and one-dimensional that I didn’t even care what happened to them. The one exception was Isaiah Whitlock Jr. ‘s Detective Bob. He was funny, sympathetic, an all-around great guy, and the only one I didn’t want to see get eaten by the bear. Unfortunately, he was the only character that elicited such a reaction from me. 

More of the cast included Daveed, Syd, Dee Dee and Henry. Daveed was a drug dealer who remained perpetually stern and unlikable until his sudden, unexplained character development in the last 10 minutes of the movie. Syd was the evil drug lord, but lacked all the appeal of a great villain, the poor man’s Walter White. Dee Dee and Henry were two kids that skipped school and got attacked by the bear after they found cocaine in the forest. I disliked Dee Dee and Henry with an intense passion, and every time they were on screen I was instantly irritated. One of my biggest pet peeves is when movies or TV shows use little kids to garner lazy laughs or undeserved “awwws” from the audience, and Cocaine Bear was no exception.

The use of this tactic is part of the reason why I found the humor of Cocaine Bear so lacking. Every time the movie attempted to get a laugh from the elementary school-age Henry saying something “naughty,” I let loose an intense, irritated eye roll. And that’s when the movie even tried to be funny at all. Many times, it seemed like it was so amused with its own premise that it felt including jokes wasn’t necessary. But I need to be fair, the movie had its moments. One standout moment was a chase scene where the bear, hopped up on cocaine and rage, chased down a speeding ambulance and devoured two of its passengers. It doesn’t sound funny, but it was by far the movie’s funniest scene and the jewel in the crown of Cocaine Bear’s exciting action scenes.

Although it underperformed in many areas, Cocaine Bear excelled in its action scenes. A quiet moment in the forest would suddenly explode as the coked-up bear burst out of the trees, its mouth coated with blood, its eyes wild with a murderous lust. Hikers would be gruesomely torn limb from limb, blood would spurt by the bucket load, internal organs would be strewn all over the forest floor. The movie fully utilized its absurdity in these sequences, creating action scenes that were over-the-top in the perfect way.

Overall, Cocaine Bear left me unsatisfied. It gave little thought to its human characters, instead focusing much of its attention on the 500 pound murder-bear, and often left out the laughs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch the movie. If you’re ever on a really long flight and you have the option to watch Cocaine Bear then I would say, sure, watch Cocaine Bear, but if you never see this movie, don’t worry, you’re not missing much.