Universal’s first trailer for “Cocaine Bear” gives the people what they want. The title is pretty self-explanatory, even if one doesn’t know about the true-life story involving a 175-pound American black bear who ingested a duffel bag full of blow after the narcotics were dumped out of an airplane by a drug smuggler trying to lighten a heavy load.
It’s a somewhat refreshing example of an old-school high-concept movie, one driven by a strong elevator pitch rather than IP or marquee characters. However, one might count the drug-devouring bear as a circumstantial butt-in-seats draw. The trailer is certainly selling as much, including a ridiculous climactic beat of the bear leaping into a speeding ambulance.
If audiences show up for “Cocaine Bear” when it opens on Feb. 23, 2023, it won’t be because of Banks’ name in the director’s chair (having previously helmed “Pitch Perfect 2” in 2015 and a “Charlie’s Angels” legacy sequel in 2019) or its top-billed human stars (Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich and Ray Liotta — in his final performance). It’ll be because audiences want to see a giant bear ingest drugs and go on a drug-fueled rampage of destruction and carnage.
Likewise, Blumhouse’s “M3gan” is building buzz and online interest in advance of its Jan. 6, 2023 release, including a first teaser that was seen over 150 million times in the first week. And if audiences show up for the year’s first big movie, it will be because of the title character, namely an anthropomorphic high-tech doll who gains sentience and starts murdering people. In a skewed way, Cocaine Bear and M3gan are movie stars.
Sometimes “Ha ha, Jason Statham’s punching a shark!” gives you “The Meg” ($529 million on a $150 million budget in 2018). Sometimes “Ha ha, Idris Elba is punching a lion!” gives you “Beast” ($59 million on a $35 million budget, along with potentially face-saving PVOD revenue, in 2022). That said, it can be presumed that both “Cocaine Bear” and “M3gan” are cheap enough that they don’t have to break records to break even.