Twenty years ago, I, just a wee lad in New England, bought into the lie that was fed to all us Zoomers. The lie of a rapping kangaroo. Yes, I speak of the reviled Kangaroo Jack! Marketed as a fun romp of two bozos in the outback hanging out with a kangaroo who could spit rhymes, but when I saw said movie, I found that scene that was plastered throughout the entire campaign, cut and recut, was taken out of context. It was a dream and the real story had something to do with poachers or diamond smuggling, honestly, I don’t remember the plot. I just recall the feeling of deception. Luckily now, you can sue thanks to Judge Stephen Wilson who ruled last December you can now sue for deceptive trailers… Now, where does Cocaine Bear fit into all of this?
Well, first off it didn’t lie to its audience. I mean besides the based on true events tag; no, a coked-up bear didn’t rampage through Georgia. But come on, if studios didn’t zhuzh up a story and exaggerate details from time to time the entire Conjuring franchise would just be two con artists exploiting and preying on the fears of the delusional and financially troubled. The point is that this movie carries the tag claiming authenticity to its logical conclusion; exaggerate the hell out of a paper-thin story to make it appealing. The true story is, a bear in the 80’s that got into an air-dropped duffle-bag of cocaine but that doesn’t put asses in the seat. The details of the rest of the story are up for grabs, and grab they did, while in the process of making a far more entertaining story. And that’s the difference; Cocaine Bear was marketed as a movie about a bear on cocaine, so long as that one aspect was upheld the movie delivered on its promise.
‘How is it?’ I hear you asking. It’s fun. I left with a headache from laughing too hard. I am a sucker for splat-stick and this flick has a metric tonne (which is bigger that a US ton, though smaller than a British ton) of gore, not all caused by the bear, some just in association with the bear. You have what made 80’s movies so great, likable characters. Ehrenreich and Jackson play Eddie and Daveed, part of the ensemble cast. They play the duo sent to retrieve the lost coke, their dynamic is pretty fun and a little heartwarming. Whitlock is Bob, the soft and awkward cop, who is neither a pushover nor threatening. Character Actress Margo Martindale (yes, thanks to Bojack I can only refer to her as such) is a loose cannon of a park ranger. Plus, in what other movie do you get to see stupid kids eat coke trying to impress the other? (Warning: kids don’t do drugs unless they’re prescribed, it’s not that hard to get a script for synthetic meth, trust me). Their dynamic is believable and the dialogue for everyone is hilarious. The shooting is mesmerizing, Elizabeth Banks has a wonderful eye for nature shots. Great comedic timing in the cuts. The frequent shots of the doorbell of the ranger station has me wondering if that was a gag to provoke a drinking game in the future. Was it Liz?
This is the perfect combination of Jaws and Friday the 13th… on Cocaine. A lot of the movie is shot like a slash, building up to a payoff, slow pans, and long shots in a quiet setting, lingering on rooms splattered with blood. Letting the audience know this isn’t Yogi or Boo-Boo (excluding that cameo they had in the grim adventures of Billy and Mandy where they were clearly on cocaine) is a real threat, and I applaud them for not pulling on their punches, it makes the hits land harder and the gore all the more hysterical. The CG is apparent but not insulting, it will still be years before we’ve perfected if we ever do but considering the alternatives; train a real bear or try the practical effect. The ladder runs the same risk as CG of possibly looking cheap in some scenes, and this is from a man who petitions and praises the ongoing use of practicals. The former runs into the issue of… you know what? Get me a damn bear we’re redoing it.
It’s fun. That’s as much as it needs to be. I think it’s a high note for Ray Liotta to have made his last full performance before his death. I think he’d of want someone to remember him as the troubled micro drug lord who had his intestines eaten out like fettuccini by bear cubs before Cocaine Bear tossed him off a waterfall. There is no profound point to this story other than maybe don’t do drugs if that. Movies have become so bloated, not everything has to be a three-hour soapbox for the writer or director to bate the Oscars or try to convince a sea of critics that they are making high art. Sometimes to resonate with an audience you don’t have to talk over them. Sometimes you just want a quaint little story about a bear and her cocaine. And remember, like the illustrious Florida man, this was just a brief chapter in the saga of Cocaine Bear.