Review: The Beginning Of A Cocaine Bear Cinematic Universe?
The Cocaine Bear experience is almost exactly what you’d expect from the poster. I just wish there had been a little bit more… bear. No notes with regard to the amount of cocaine.
If you’re anything like me, watching this movie will have you clamouring for more like a cocaine bear down to their last bump. Which is good news – the ending implies there could be a sequel.
Elizabeth Banks added Cocaine Bear to her directorial portfolio following Pitch Perfect 2, and Charlie’s Angels.
This third entry to the Banks Cinematic Universe is a stark thematic departure from those preceding it. Cocaine Bear has already more than doubled its budget in ticket sales, pointing towards the possibility of sequels.
The film is loosely based upon real events. “Loosely” is doing a lot of heavy lifting.
The real “cocaine bear” was an 80kg American black bear that ingested almost half its body-weight in cocaine. This proud beast was a resident of northern Georgia, who’s relationship with narcotics – prior to becoming infamous – remains unknown.
After throwing several bags of white powdery cargo out of his aircraft, a smuggler named Andrew C. Thornton II unknowingly jumped to his death. At the worst possible time, and in the worst possible way, he found out that he had a faulty parachute.
One of the jettisoned bags happened to fall near enough to a (presumably) innocent forest beast going about their beary important business.
This cocaine-filled duffel bag sealed the bear’s fate. We have no way of knowing what went through this creature’s mind upon consuming roughly 34 kilograms of cocaine – but it sure is fun to speculate.
Regardless, the OG cocaine bear died fairly soon after. Never even managed to terrorise hikers or park rangers by embarking upon a feature film-earning rampage.
Rest in powder, cocaine bear.
The Cocaine Bear you can still catch on screen tells a similar story. Well, actually it tells a story with a similar beginning.
A drug-smuggler tosses bag after bag of cocaine out of his smuggling plane, before knocking himself unconscious whilst trying to jump out.
This depiction of Andrew C. Thornton II – who was a real life paratrooper with the US Army 82nd Airborne Division, and then narcotics officer – prior to realising his smuggling dreams, also falls to his death.
This is about where the similarities end.
His abrupt return to the earth’s surface triggers a police investigation, and a detective surmises that the cocaine recovered is likely just one of several dropped parcels.
A drug kingpin, to whom the cocaine illicitly belonged, catches wind of his smuggler’s death and seeks to recover the cocaine and recoup his losses. At the same time, two children leave school and head into the forest without their parents’ permission.
The “kids lost in the forest” storyline feels a little shoehorned in – what, where you trying to make this movie about cocaine and gore more family friendly?
I digress, and should add that this storyline does manage to deliver one extremely satisfying moment, the type of moment which reminded me what I love about going to the cinema.
When two pre-teen children attempt to convince one-another that they are seasoned drug users (they aren’t), one asks the other what the appropriate dose of cocaine is. The response: “at least a teaspoon” provoked my theatre to erupt into a beautifully spontaneous collective
A bunch of other human beings are also involved in the narrative. Which is fine. I’m fine with movies being about people sometimes. I just wish that something called “Cocaine Bear” would focus more on the furry, clawed, toothy, coke enthusiast. Is that too much to ask?
Elizabeth Banks must have thought so.
(or more likely, financiers who didn’t want to splurge on any more expensive CGI than absolutely necessary)
So with Cocaine Bear tucked away into the narrative background for most of the movie, a slightly overly complicated series of coincidences brings together the detective, a drug kingpin and his goons, a park-ranger, a wildlife activist, two children and one of their mothers.
Oh, and the bear, too. I almost forgot to mention the bear. The movie almost did too.
These humans cross paths with a 230kg bear hell bent on finding another hit – whilst saving some more for her two cubs, to whom she will deliver the cocaine they need to grow big and strong.
Chaos ensues when all of the characters come across the coke-filled creature. Most encounters usually end in a fair amount of bloody mauling, but a few result in cocaine bear napping atop an unfortunate drug dealer.
Although these encounters are satisfying to watch, and probably for budgetary reasons, the film features far less footage of its eponymous CGI momma bear than it does the human support characters panicking all around her.
One particular image won’t leave my mind anytime soon. When Cocaine Bear chases a wildlife activist – coated in a powdered cocaine – up a tree.
She tears him to literal shreds, and one of those shreds (previously a lower leg) tumbles to the ground, still coated in coke. Having concluded her business in the treetops, cocaine bear leaps to the ground and, in one smooth motion, snorts the severed leg clean. Edit: apart from all the blood.
Although the moments of on screen bear-isms are fewer and further between than you might hope for, when the bear is onscreen, she looks impressive.
A thrillingly terrifying beast, with two cocaine cubs who’s appearance bodes well for the future, if there is to be a future for the Cocaine Bear franchise.
While the real cocaine bear died shortly after its misadventures in narcotics, the Cocaine Bear depicted in the film, along with her cocaine cubs, remain at large.
They may be available for casting in future films, centred around answering an age old narrative question: “How much damage could [insert desired animal here] do if it did an 8-ball?”
Tag someone you’d watch some bear-based coke-carnage with