The blow necessities of life will come to you.
We’ve seen Al Pacino snort cocaine in “Scarface,” we’ve seen the late Ray Liotta snort it in “Goodfellas,” and we’ve even seen Cheech & Chong do it with Pee Wee Herman in “Nice Dreams.” And the list goes on and on. But never have we’ve seen an American black bear high on the stuff.
The movie “Cocaine Bear” is inspired by true events in 1985 when a drug smuggling mission goes horribly wrong. The trafficker named Andrew C. Thornton II falls to his death when his parachute fails to open, and bags of cocaine went all over Tennessee. Then, when a bear ingested the stuff, it later overdosed and died in Georgia. Its body was finally stuffed and displaced at a mall in Lexington, Kentucky.
So why not use the opportunity to turn the story into a horror comedy instead of a history film? Because it could be thrilling and funny. After all, if “Deep Blue Sea” can rip off “Jaws,” by making the sharks smarter through an Alzheimer’s experiment, then why can’t “Cocaine Bear” use a CGI bear to go crazy AF?
Director Elizabeth Banks and producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (three “Lego Movie” collaborators) all know how to have fun with the premise than writer Jimmy Warden does with the story, which seems to having a bad trip with the character development. I’m told this movie is supposed to be the tradition of B-movies, which makes sense if the movie has to be entertaining with or without the attacks.
The cast consists of Keri Russell as a single nurse mom Sari, Brooklynn Prince as her teenage daughter Dee Dee, Christian Covey as her neurotic friend Henry, the late Ray Liotta as drug kingpin Syd Dentwood, Alden Ehrenreich as his alcoholically depressed son Eddie, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as his fixer Daveed, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as a detective on the cocaine case, Kristofer Hivju as a Norwegian hiker, Matthew Rhys as the dead trafficker, Jesse Tyler Ferguson as an animal activist, and Margo Martindale as a park ranger dealing with punks all the time.
They all have to deal with the bear, which goes berserk whenever it gets the scent of the power the way a shark is attracted to blood in the ocean. It’s R-rated, so it has to love drugs, cocaine, and cursing, especially when the bear has to sleep on Eddie and when the characters around him ask stupid questions. Well, maybe one question isn’t stupid.
We’re all going to miss Ray Liotta for the characters he’s portrayed, especially Henry Hill, and I’m not just saying it because I’m reviewing a cocaine-themed movie. His villain character doesn’t rank with Hill, but at least we’re able to see him in the right territory. Anything but his degrading character in “Hubie Halloween.”
Russell, Jackson, Jr., Ehrenreich, Covey, Whitlock, Jr., and Martindale are all sharp with the right material. They all manage to overcome the cliches, and under Banks’ direction, they seem to be Lord-Miller characters with the tone and mannerisms. They all follow the rules of a B-horror comedy that can be scary and hilarious without the desperation or obligatory shocks.
And speaking of Banks, her last directorial job with “Charlie’s Angels,” which was a waste of time for her and all those film talents there. “Cocaine Bear” is proof that can she be an actress and a filmmaker with the right attitude to attack movie-goers. They can be male or female audiences, because of the actors and characters inside the story, but the film refuses to condescend its targeted audience. You’ll say more than just “Oh bother,” if that bear comes near you. And I made the right choice of seeing this over “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.”
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