‘Cocaine Bear’ reviews: It’s ‘gory, maniacal, and often just straight-up hilarious’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

On February 24, 2023, Universal released “Cocaine Bear,” Elizabeth Banks‘ comedy-horror flick that raked in $22 million its opening weekend. An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine. The film, which currently holds a score of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, has garnered generally positive reviews. 

The critics consensus reads, “Despite Cocaine Bear‘s half-baked plot and uneven acting, the titular fur fiend’s scene-snorting frenzy will give B-movie enthusiasts a contact high.” The ensemble cast (beyond VFX-driven “Cokey” the bear) includes Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Christian Convery, Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale and the late Ray Liotta. Read our review roundup below.

More from GoldDerby

SEE Box office: ‘Ant-Man’ drops dramatically to make room for ‘Cocaine Bear’ and ‘Jesus Revolution’

Jamie Graham of Total Film writes, “A 500lb American black bear rocketing up a tree to munch on a pesky human? It’s less authentic than writer Jimmy Warden’s take on real events; in truth, the bear that ingested a duffel bag of cocaine in 1985 didn’t kill anyone, and itself died from a brain haemorrhage and failure of the heart, kidneys and lungs.” The cast fares better than the plot, including the late great Liotta in his final role. Graham concludes, “Highlights include our hirsute antihero doing the best coke sneeze since Woody Allen in ‘Annie Hall’; pausing its rampage to admire a butterfly; and chasing down an ambulance to leave a trail of dead bodies and spurting limbs. In these moments, the film is just what you want from a movie entitled ‘Cocaine Bear.’ But they’re interrupted by musings on mum-power, greed and how it’s the quarreling humans, not a coked-up bear, that’s the real danger.”

Brian Altano of IGN Movies says, “Neil deGrasse Tyson would probably be stomping his feet in anger at ‘Cocaine Bear’, repeatedly yelling ‘Wrong! Bears can’t do that!’ over an increasingly annoyed theater crowd. But personally, I’m a huge fan of ‘deadly beast goes on a killing spree’ films…So it shouldn’t surprise you that this isn’t a thinking person’s film. Nor should it be. It’s a movie called ‘Cocaine Bear.’ What is surprising, though, is how well it works, assuming you can meet it on its ridiculous terms.” Very loosely based on a true story, the film also boasts an impressive cast and director. “Characters and costumes are totally hammed up, from Ray Liotta’s sleazy drug kingpin grandfather to Margo Martindale’s self-absorbed and inept park ranger.” As for the rampage itself? “The kills here mostly work because they’re gory, maniacal, and often just straight-up hilarious. In reality, bears don’t generally bother to kill their victims before eating them, they just start ripping and tearing. Throw in cocaine and it’s definitely much less likely to handle its dinner with grace.” In conclusion, this is “a great horror-comedy about a bear that eats cocaine – probably the best we’ll ever get about such an inherently ridiculous premise. This is where you come in. If you’re the kind of person who can buy into this insane idea and enjoy it for precisely what it’s presenting itself as, you’ll probably have a great time. It’s gory, fun as hell, packed with hilarious grotesque kills and over-the-top characters, and at 90-ish minutes, it’s paced near perfectly and never overstays its welcome or overdoses on the joke.”

SEE John Williams (‘The Fabelmans’): 5 reasons why we’re all underestimating him at Oscars

Caitlin Chappell of CBR begins by noting “A drug heist goes wrong, and a bear does cocaine. Based loosely on a true story, this simple premise could lead to tons of campy humor and brutal action. Unfortunately, ‘Cocaine Bear’ fails to deliver on what could have been the next ‘Anaconda’ or ‘Lake Placid.’ Jackson and Ehrenreich’s chemistry shines. It’s easy to believe that these two are friends, with Jackson bringing a solid straight-man performance while Ehrenreich brings a charming innocence to his role. In a less complicated film, the heart of the movie would be their endearing friendship.” Chappell concludes, “’Cocaine Bear’ tries too hard to be a cult classic. In doing so, it misses out on most of the elements that should have made this a fun night at the movies. Perhaps seeing this at home with a group of rowdy friends would improve ‘Cocaine Bear,’ but as it stands, the movie complicated what should have been an easy win with a bloated, convenient script, which neglects its biggest draw — the bear.”

Josh Parham of Next Best Picture writes, “Suffice it to say, ‘Cocaine Bear’ is a name that crafts a specific atmosphere that is difficult not to assume will be the final result. This film indeed exists in such a register, and it can be enjoyable if a tad hollow.” He adds, “As one would expect, this effort is meant to go for something other than dramatic heights and complex emotions. Elizabeth Banks brings a jovial energy to this piece, which luxuriates in the schlocky violence of a high concept. Overall, she creates a thoroughly entertaining environment, despite a persistent yearning for an even stronger commitment to the inherent silliness…Margo Martindale is a joyous delight in her curmudgeonly persona. There is also a nice turn from Alden Ehrenreich as a member of the posse hunting down the cocaine, who delivers an effective humorous portrayal. The ensemble is filled with great performers from the likes of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the late Ray Liotta, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. Though a particular highlight comes from the banter between Brooklyn Prince and Christian Convery, the missing children whose bickering feels like an authentic representation and provides some of the best comedic moments without ever being overtly grating. The cast is well-assembled, with each individual compensating nicely for hollow aspects.” 

PREDICTthe 2023 Oscar winners through March 12

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest predictions


Best of GoldDerby

Sign up for Gold Derby's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.