Cocaine Bear is not as dumb as it sounds

Taking parody and self-awareness to the next level.

by Justin Choo

When you’re watching a movie called Cocaine Bear, you can expect that the entertainment resides squarely entirely within your head.

The titular character was inspired by an American Black Bear dubbed ‘Pablo Escobear’, which was found dead next to a bag of cocaine and with four grams of the stuff in its bloodstream. And that’s it, really. As it turns out, the real-life story isn’t quite as entertaining as the movie, but who needs facts when you have a goldmine of a premise staring you in the face?

Drugs are bad mmkay, but tripped out bear sounds good.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that in Cocaine Bear, the bear snorts cocaine, gets addicted and dangerous, and proceeds to terrorise the town; it’s kind of cute to think otherwise. At the end of the day, it’s an absurdist comedy horror movie–think Sharknado and all that–so the joke lies in the audacity of the filmmakers to push through their most ludicrous ideas and stick to landing.

It’s adorable… until it’s not.

The dialogue is also perfectly B-grade–sometimes awkward, sometimes stilted, sometimes spot-on with the humour vibe. Cocaine Bear is littered with good performances from a strong cast and I’m quite certain you’ll fall in love with the precociously funny Henry (Christian Convery). Stache (Aaron Holliday) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) play out a budding bromance bit as ‘jilted’ bestie Daveed (O’Shea Jackson) broods on in the background. But arguably Margo Martindale puts on a performance beyond this movie’s pay grade with a highly sympathetic yet comedic portrayal of the lovelorn Ranger Liz. The movie also features one of the last performances from Ray Liotta as Syd White, drug kingpin baddie antagonist and part-time babysitter.

Ray Liotta putting in a great shift in one of his last movies.

Much like how people enjoy parodies because they recognise the tropes that are being lampooned, the joy that Cocaine Bear brings stems from the ridiculous situations that the movie takes you through–that, or you’ve spent the 80s and 90s devouring tonnes of comedy horror movies. Much of the movie’s merit lies in the setups and the incongruence of the situations, which are rather hilarious when you take a moment to think about it. And yet, sometimes it’s hard to tell if something’s genuinely bad or if it’s trying to come across as bad…

Nothing implausible here. Not in the movie anyway.

But I do find that the horror elements in this movie are far stronger than the comedic bits, in the sense that they have more impact right out of the gate. It’s a gory movie alright, but even that is milked for laughs, as it should be.

Cocaine Bear is actually pretty good with the scares.

Cocaine Bear is an oddball that may not work for everyone. In my case, no one in the cinema as much let out a snigger for its entire duration, which, you gotta admit, is one hell of an achievement in itself since it’s essentially a comedy. Perhaps that might be the best compliment I can pay Cocaine Bear at the risk of insulting the audience (obviously not the intent); it’s a low-brow movie but there’s nothing low-brow about it at all.

  • 7/10
    - 7/10

Cocaine Bear

Tell me you’re a parody of a parody without saying you are. It’s a lot smarter than most people will give it credit for but it’s not what most people want.

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