Analysis: TRUE AS ALL HELL.
Regrettably—tragically, even—this is NOT that world.
In 1985, in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, a bear came upon a trove of cocaine which had been dumped from a plane by trafficker Andrew Thornton. The bear then consumed either some or all of the drug and overdosed, depending on which version of the story you prefer. In 2023, in the newly released movie “Cocaine Bear,” written by Jimmy Warden and directed by Elizabeth Banks, the story takes a decidedly different turn, one in which the bear develops a strong affinity for the drug and goes on a murderous rampage.
The result is a shining example of the type of content Hollywood should be producing.
It’s a gory, rollicking romp through several stories which become intertwined thanks to the cocaine bear. There’s Daveed, played by Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr., who’s been charged by kingpin Syd, portrayed by Ray Liotta in one of his final roles, with recovering the drug scattered across the forest in duffle bags. Accompanying Daveed is Eddie, played by Alden Ehrenreich, who is trying to leave the family business and is wrecked with grief over his wife losing her battle with cancer. Along the way, they pick up a hoodlum. Their story is a blood-soaked buddy comedy.
All of those people get killed, though the cocaine bear doesn’t directly kill and dismember all of them, just most of them. Most of the principal characters survive, but not before they come together to learn lessons about parenting, friendship, teamwork, and fighting a cocaine-addled bear.
Heads are removed. Limbs torn off. Blood splashing hither and thither. Body parts bouncing hither and thither. There are jokes, such as when the hooligan teaches Eddie how he can better talk to his own son. There are tender moments, also exemplified by the hooligan teaching Eddie how to better communicate with his son.
What there aren’t are any lectures. There are no teachable moments, unless you count the one that comes at the beginning of the film and is credited to Wikipedia, that in a normal encounter with a black bear, the smart play is to fight back. It’s 95 minutes of insanity that serves no purpose other than to entertain.
In a just world, those 95 minutes of blood-soaked carnage would be guaranteed to earn multiple Oscars, from best screenplay to best director to best film. Alas, the lack of teachable moments probably means that won’t happen, but it matters not. For what matters is that in 2023, we have a movie that hearkens back to earlier times, back when Hollywood sought not to make us better people, but to distract us for a while, to invite us to imagine possibilities like “what if a bear got hooked on cocaine?”
One of the truly burning questions of our era, for sure. But seriously, now: movies as entertainment, not holier-than-thou finger-wagging? How very quaint.