Internet famous “Cocaine Bear” proves haters wrong at the box office

cocaine bear el don
Cocaine bear is a horror-comedy about a momma bear. Photo by Universal Studios

In a world where it snows in California, a bear high on cocaine going on a drug-crazed rampage does not stray so far from our reality. So it should be no surprise it’s killing at the box office.

Fair warning, do not watch Ms. “Cocaine Bear” if you take movies too seriously. 

Released on February 24, 2023, Cocaine Bear is a horror comedy very loosely inspired by a real-life incident where a black bear ingested 88 pounds of cocaine fallen from a drug dealer’s plane. After hearing it is quote-unquote inspired by true events I was sold. 

The film, directed by Elizabeth Banks from a screenplay by Jimmy Warden, gives audiences an elevated form of a ‘so bad it’s good’ film. The whole premise of the story is an indulgent take on a rare scenario filled with the what-ifs of the case, with unlikely main characters and life lessons throughout. Think Aesop’s fable gone wild.

It became the second-highest opening at the February 2023 box office, racking in approximately $23 million on opening weekend. A win for low-budget films, as it surpassed its original expectations by almost twice as much. Shocking many mixed reviews and holding its own against the second weekend of a Marvel superhero movie. 

Satirical horror-comedy movies have done well in the pandemic era, with more campy films like M3GAN and Cocaine Bear holding it down at the box office. Though multi-genre movies are marketing nightmares for the studio, these movies are bringing back gonzo films to their full glory. Showing films should be fun, too. 

There is an undeniable charm to the execution of the script, which I think is thanks to well-done casting. Two of the leading characters are up-and-coming child actors Christian Convery and Brooklynn Prince, captivating the audience in their roles through the lens of childish mischief. Banks and Warden get away with a kid sniffing drugs in the middle of the forest and do so in a way that it is happening before you know what hit you.  

The real star of the show, however, is Allen Henry. Henry is a stuntman and student of Andy Serkis, performing motion capture in a CGI recipe created by Weta FX. He plays a convincing coke-infatuated bear by wearing all black and walking on all fours with prosthetic arms.

The rest of the cast includes Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, O’Shea Jackson, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ray Liotta. It is one of Liotta’s final roles before his passing last May, and one that connects back to his similar cocaine-laced performance in “Goodfellas.”

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Months before its release, the trailer became a viral sensation, with currently more than 19 million views on YouTube and 25 million views on Twitter. One of Banks’ clever choices was casting the popular social-media (3.1M followers across social platforms) stand-up comedian Scott Seiss, who appears later in the movie.

Seiss rates bears on how well they would do in a match against Ms. Bear herself. 

@scottseiss

In theatres now! #movie #comedу #cocainebear #fyp

♬ original sound – Scott Seiss

A good indicator of a movie that sparks conversation, is the inspiration for plenty of memes.

 

Clearly the internet loves “Cocaine Bear” even if harsh reviews might not agree. Like, laugh a little.

The gruesome moments are a tad cheesy, if not overdone. But comedic moments and pretty convincing CGI help to balance it out. I would have enjoyed more screen time for Jesse Tyler Ferguson, though the moments leading to his demise kept me on the edge of my seat. 

The journalist in me was offended it strayed so far from the original story but damn it, if I didn’t leave the theater entertained. 

Sure, Cocaine Bear is kind of a dumb movie. It doesn’t pretend to be a thinking person’s film. The title is “Cocaine Bear” for crying out loud. If you can meet the film at its slightly silly terms, it is just as fun as the title. If nothing else, it is a cautionary tale for drug dealers who put business over their families. 

 

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