Friday, June 14, 2024

Review: Oh, the Horror! “Cocaine Bear” Snorts Up $8.6 Mil Opening, With an Endearing CGI Lead Star


Box office: “Cocaine Bear” made a total of $8.6 million on Thurs previews and Friday opening. It’s shooting for a weekend opening of $20 mil plus.

“Cocaine Bear,” a Universal film which opened last night, is exactly what you think it will be. It’s a high octane paced, gore and blood, really funny ride. Universal has another genre hit on their hands, following “Violent Night” and “M3GAN.”

Much is due to the talent of director Elizabeth Banks. She directs this insane comedic thriller with a deft, savvy, sarcastic and quippy touch. “Cocaine Bear” is loosely based on a true story about a drug smuggler (a terrific Matthew Rhys in a quick cameo) who in 1985 tossed out duffel bags of cocaine out on an airplane over the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. In real life the bear died of overdosing on the cocaine, but writer Jimmy Alden and Banks take liberties, to say the least, with the story.

Our She bear (yes we find out she is female in a hilarious reveal as the film goes on) is very much alive, terrifying all who cross her path in her quest for her next high while at the same time protecting her cubs. And animal lovers don’t fret. The bear is CGI and she never comes off as the ‘bad guy,’ she’s actually quite endearing.

Even though there are various plot lines weaving in and out, Banks makes sense of them all and even gets the audience invested in these mostly wacko characters. Ray Liotta — in his final movie appearance, with a lovely dedication at the end — is terrific as Syd, the St. Louis drug lord looking for the elusive white powder for which he is on the hook. The threat of death looms over Syd and his family if he does not find it. His son, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich,) and his pal, Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), reluctantly lend hands to help on that screwed up quest. The comedic back and forth between these too goof balls are among the funniest of the film.

Meanwhile, in a different part of the forest, tweens Henry (Christian Convery) and Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince, so memorable in “The Florida Project”) cut school and get into shenanigans that could prove deadly. Dee’s Mom, an earnest nurse (Keri Russell) follows them in to find her daughter. At the same time the flirty park ranger (played hilariously by Margo Martindale) is entertaining her boy crush wildlife inspector Peter (Jesse Tyler Ferguson with a wild wig) as well as being tough with various hoodlums.

A couple of other storylines are intertwined as well. Combine them all with various limbs being tossed in numerous weirdly funny death sequences and at 90 minutes, Banks briskly keeps the story going staying true to the outrageousness of it all. Along with pop culture references like Reagan’s war on drugs, Wikipedia facts, and cool old footage, Banks is smart and savvy enough to know what the story is and should be. The cast of this surreal comedic thriller are all terrific. “Cocaine Bear” is nothing if not entertaining, and the ludicrous funny brutality of the rollicking premise pays off in spades, or shall we say, snorts!

Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney writes from Los Angeles for A seasoned journalist with a long history during the halcyon days of the NY Daily News, Leah is a member of the Critics Choice and Rotten Tomatoes.

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