Maybe you haven’t spent the last two months or so curating your entire personality based on Cocaine Bear, but you probably have heard of it. The movie seems to be confusing people who don’t understand if it’s a joke, a true story, an action heist, or some sort of mini The Americans reunion, and the answer is this: Yes! It’s all of the above! But that might be a little daunting to moviegoers, especially since solid bear representation is so sparse in Hollywood.
Cocaine Bear is based on a true story, so it’s not like you can claim it is unoriginal, though people probably will anyway. Even though it is absurd, the whole cast and crew seem to know that, which means that it likely doesn’t take itself too seriously. Now that the first reviews are out, here is what you can expect from a movie about a bear that eats cocaine:
Mike Ryan, Uproxx:
In the end, Cocaine Bear is the silly fun that a movie called Cocaine Bear should provide us, the audience looking for silly fun. This is not a movie that takes itself seriously, even though the gore rises to the level of some pretty good horror movies. (There’s one death scene, in particular, I found myself laughing out loud because it was so unexpected. I laughed and clapped my way through this entire movie.) I mentioned Freddy Krueger earlier, but Cocaine Bear plays more like an ’80s horror movie in the vein of Friday the 13th. But instead of Jason Voorhees, we get a fun bear who would probably be minding its own business except for all the cocaine it’s done.
Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter:
Because Cocaine Bear doesn’t take itself too seriously, you shouldn’t either. The creators toy with Cokey’s murderous tendencies, which are only triggered when she crosses paths with humans. An appetite for body horror is a prerequisite for fully appreciating the absurdity of the pain and torture inflicted upon people in the film: the chorus of shrill screams, limbs flying toward the camera, skin tearing like leather — you get the picture. Banks and Warden take immense and infectious joy in engineering these scenarios, ratcheting up the ridiculousness to volley with our nerves. One minute you’re chuckling at a zingy one-liner, the next you’re muttering “what the f**k” under your breath.
Pete Hammond, Deadline:
Banks is a savvy director, never letting the intended humor camp things up too much, but also well aware this is a horror film with a flesh-chomping bear at its center and all the body parts that entails, and audiences have to buy all that or the soufflé falls. It doesn’t. You’ll have a blast.
Maria Lattila, WhyNow:
Cocaine Bear is hilarious. The jokes come frequently, and nearly every single one lands. Banks proves herself to be a savvy, competent director; getting a film like Cocaine Bear off the ground is an impressive feat, but making it such a riot is a true testament to her capabilities as a director.
Andrew J Salazar, Discussing Film:
Cocaine Bear will certainly be embraced with open arms by many, since it’s not everyday a major studio invests in a wild story like this. Yet, the film never reaches it’s full potential in trying to appease as many people as possible. What you see is what you get here. But if you’re looking to simply distract yourself for an hour and a half with a good old-fashioned, coke-fueled bloodbath sprinkled with ’80s bops, then Cocaine Bear gets the job done.
While many leaned into the horror and silliness, others were unimpressed with the movie about a bear eating cocaine. As David Sims explains in his Atlantic Review:
Cocaine Bear could’ve been a triumph if the jokes landed, but the zingers just aren’t up to the mayhem. And though the character actors are all capable of sterling work, there’s nobody to root for here; Ehrenreich comes the closest, giving his coke-hunting dirtbag character just enough humanity that you aren’t instantly hoping for his limbs to be torn off. But the main event is the cocaine bear, and the meager humans only distract from her might.
Jude Dry of IndieWire, agreed to an extent:
The blatantly ridiculous appeal of “Cocaine Bear” is proof enough that the project isn’t lacking in self-awareness, but to what end? It’s not unhinged enough to qualify as full-blown parody, and not smart enough to be called satire. Banks seems uninterested in directly referencing exploitation movies of the past, or in burying winking cultural critiques within the outlandish action. Maybe that’s too much to ask from a movie called “Cocaine Bear.” Like its title, what you see is what you get.
Paul Attard, Slant:
Cocaine Bear starts running on fumes almost immediately and peters out before the second brick of cocaine is even devoured. This is a film that finds side characters trading irreverent banter at a steady clip and tough-guy drug dealers playing a game of 20 questions that leaves them feeling all the feels—all before the coked-out bear sinks its paws and teeth into them. Would that the bear’s carnage felt more gleefully unhinged or unnerving, because then it would have been easier to ignore the fact that, if you replaced it with Jason Vorhees, or Freddy Krueger, or just about any other on-screen maniac, you’ve already seen this film before.
The moral of the story here is that a bear ate some cocaine and there is a movie about it. It should not be that deep, and it should be fun. This isn’t changing any lives, but hopefully, it will make yours better for an hour and 35 minutes. We’ve seen it before!
Cocaine Bear will make his grizzly theater debut this Friday, February 24th.