Cocaine Bear Elon Musk

Cocaine Bear is a horror-comedy tailor made for Elon Musk

2 out of 5 stars

It has never been more obvious to me that mainstream comedies have been nearly completely phased out of major studio offerings than when the credits rolled on Cocaine Bear, an ossified 2008-style horror-comedy that springboards off an amusing true-crime anecdote to deliver 95 solid minutes of Urban Outfitters t-shirt slogans given life. Essentially the most fully realized by-product of describing things that are slightly more intense than another things as “X on CRACK,” Cocaine Bear presents infinite variations on the same joke — that a bear doing cocaine is, indeed, insane.

The year is 1985. Drug smuggler Andrew Thornton (Matthew Rhys in an essentially silent cameo), having run into some smuggling trouble, decides to dump duffle bags full of cocaine out of a plane and into a previously identified area of a Georgia wildlife preserve. Thornton promptly knocks himself out jumping out of the plane and dies, leaving the duffle bags full of cocaine unattended in the woods. As you may have surmised by the title, a black bear gets into the bags and discovers the many, rapidly changing benefits of cocaine, proceeding to run rampant on a motley crew of park dwellers that include two criminals tasked with recovering the coke (O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich) as well as their boss (Ray Liotta), two kids who skip school to go on a hike (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery), the mom trying to find her aforementioned school-skipping kid (Keri Russell), a couple of park rangers (Margo Martindale and Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a detective trying to track down the cocaine (Isaiah Whitlock), some European hikers (Kristopher Hivju and Hannah Hoekstra) and a couple of surprises.

Let’s begin by dealing with the elephant in the room: what else did I expect from a movie called Cocaine Bear that’s quite literally about a bear doing a lot of blow? It’s true that, to everyone’s credit, Cocaine Bear fulfills all expectations of being a movie about a cocaine bear. It’s a loud, garish horror comedy packed to the gills with gore and wackiness and a profound conviction that a bear doing cocaine is the most insane thing imaginable. There aren’t an endless amount of ways this can go, and director Elizabeth Banks has chosen to take a page from the Snakes on a Plane school of not taking herself particularly seriously and passing her thinly sketched characters through the ringer.

Unfortunately, said ringer mainly involves people yelling, “THE BEAR DID COCAINE!” or screaming hysterically when the very gory damage perpetrated by the bear becomes apparent. It’s essentially a page from the Will Ferrell book of comedy, repeated over and over by different characters. The delivery of these jokes isn’t even that bad — there are a couple of pretty effective mid-movie sequences and everyone is, at the very least, very committed to the joke — but it’s not exactly the kind of thing that grows funnier each time you see it. A fast-paced, Grand Guignol sequence with an ambulance sticks out as the most original part of the whole thing, but the whole slapstick rigamarole ultimately leads to a dimly lit finale in and around a cave that’s definitely more Jurassic World than Piranha 3D

Conviction is not what’s lacking in Cocaine Bear. The actors are all solid given what they sometimes have to work with, and the film steadfastly avoids ’80s needle-drops and neon-soaked nostalgia bait. The synthy score courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh (who certainly knows a thing or two about making 80s music) actually works at dampening the film’s excesses and Banks certainly seems to be enjoying rolling out the reams of gore that weren’t such a natural fit for Pitch Perfect 2

Ultimately, all I can think of when I look back on the Cocaine Bear experience is Elon Musk. The addled billionaire has spent the last few months tweeting extremely moldy jokes to seas of adoring brown-nosers who reply with cry-laughing emojis. (Just about the time I walked into the press screening of Cocaine Bear, Musk trotted out a “who let the dogs out” joke on Twitter. In 2023.) Musk’s washed-out desire for acceptance is all over Cocaine Bear, even if he’s had absolutely nothing to do with it. The 17th time the film trotted out the same hackneyed splats of gore and screeching, I had to ask myself who it was for. The answer to that, unfortunately, is Elon Musk. ■

Cocaine Bear (directed by Elizabeth Banks)

Cocaine Bear opened in Montreal theatres on Friday, Feb. 24, and is streaming now in Canada on Prime Video.

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