Cocaine Bear Is An Instant Classic

Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Elizabeth Banks has a track record and she has a hit once again because Universal’s Cocaine Bear is a terrifying laugh riot.

Please listen to me when I say that you need to watch this film in a theater. It’s a the sort of film that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. If you’re the type that is hesitant to return to theaters because of the pandemic or get squeamish easily, that’s fine. But for the rest of you, you have no excuse. Theaters need our support now more than ever. For everyone who complains about the non-stop remakes, reboots, and sequels, this is an original comedy that you can support right now. After all, how many times are you going to get the chance to watch a bear snorting cocaine? You’ll have better luck watching camels hump one another at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Anyway, Peacock can wait because the theater will be contagious with laughter.

Listen, I’ll watch anything with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller‘s names attached so I was immediately on board. Even without watching the trailers, I expected a good time. A good time, it was! It’s the type of laugh-out-loud comedy that I needed this week. Laughter is so important right now, especially with the terrible levels of transphobia and antisemitism right now. In any event, I hopped down in a seat and laughed my ass off for 95 minutes. Well, maybe not the entire running time but for a substantial part of the 95 minutes. That’s right–this film runs barely over an hour and a half. It’s a nice change of pace from all of the films running two hours or longer. I did not look at my watch once, which is a credit to both its run time and Joel Negron’s tightly-paced editing.

What surprises me the most is that this film is base don a true story. Back on September 11, 1985, a plane crashed and most of its $14 million in cocaine went missing. Some of it landed in a Tennessee driveway but the rest of it landed in a Georgia forest. In any event, this is a film that finds cops, criminals, tourists, and teens in the same forest where a black bear is high on cocaine. If you’re afraid of blood, bloody body parts, or a bear chewing on intestines, you’ll probably want to stay away. It’s not for the squeamish! I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be there when a black bear snorts cocaine. What are the side effects of them getting high and will they end up developing a drug habit? And even then, what happens when they run out of cocaine?

Cocaine Bear
Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks. © 2023 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Forget all the oohs and ahhs from Jurassic Park, a cocaine bear would have me running and screaming in an instant! Come to think of it, Cocaine Bear is a monster movie for a new generation. Instead of a T. Rex on the run, it’s a Cocaine Bear chasing after anyone who gets in the way. After all, it’s from Universal Pictures and they know this genre more than any other studio. They practically developed the monster movie genre during Hollywood’s early years. But really, we have the Cocaine Cowboy, Andrew Carter Thornton II, to blame. That he’s an Army paratrooper-turned-racehorse trainer-turned-narcotics cop-turned-DEA agent-turned-lawyer-turned-cocaine smuggler makes for quite a story in his own right.

It’s been almost 40 years after the Cocaine Bear got high so it’s probably safe to visit Chattahoochee National Forest after watching the film. You wouldn’t know it from the film but the bear weighed 175 pounds and suffered terribly in real life, dying from “a combination of cerebral hemorrhaging, hyperthermia, respiratory failure, renal failure, and heart failure.” But in the meantime, Jimmy Warden’s screenplay imagines what could have theoretically happened during this time had the bear been 500 pounds and it’s so fucking hysterical. Tonally, this is a film that has to weave horror and comedy together in a way that isn’t too scary or campy. They got the tone 100% right. Plus, the film owes some thanks to Working Girl, Grease, Back to the Future, The Deer Hunter, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for its look.

Cocaine Bear is an instant classic upon arrival and the terrifying laugh riot that we need right now. Believe me, you have not experienced life at its fullest until you’ve seen the pure joy that is Cocaine Bear. Behind the camera, Elizabeth Banks has done it once again with a wonderful and hysterical homage to the 1970s and 1980s. Seriously. Put Cocaine Bear in the running for best comedy of the year!

DIRECTOR: Elizabeth Banks
CAST: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra, Aaron Holliday, with Margo Martindale and Ray Liotta

Universal will release Cocaine Bear in theaters on February 24, 2023. Grade: 5/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.