There’s a sequence in this movie where the title creature’s furry vengeance turns to chasing an ambulance. Entering full drug-addled beast mode while Depeche Mode blares on the 80s soundtrack, it represents the best about what something called Cocaine Bear can be. It is juicy and mindless violent fun and there’s enough other moments that approach that high point.
As we are informed in the beginning, this is inspired by true events. In 1985, smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II (Matthew Rhys) dumped a bunch of blow from a plane that crashed in a Northwest Georgia national forest. Thornton doesn’t survive the flight he’s on but his product is available for the snorting pleasure of a black bear. The computer generated animal (with decent special effects involved) turns highly aggressive when under the influence. This is bad news for the many characters who end up visiting the park. In fact, there’s probably too many characters vying for our attention.
Rhys’s The Americans costar Keri Russell is a single mom whose daughter (Brooklyn Prince) and friend (Christian Convery) ditch school for a day in the wilderness. Rhys and Russell’s The Americans costar Margo Martindale is the park ranger who’s sweet on her game warden colleague (Jesse Tyler Ferguson). A St. Louis cop (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) turns up to investigate Rhys’s demise. Then there’s his fellow smugglers Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) who are tasked with finding the $14 million worth of merchandise. Eddie is the son of kingpin Syd (Ray Liotta, hamming it up gleefully in one of his final roles) and humorously mourning the loss of his wife through ballads by Jeffrey Osborne. There’s also a vacationing Nordic couple and a trio of forest dwelling thugs who have no clue what they’re in for.
That’s a lot of faces when we’re really present to watch the bear not feel her own (yes… it’s a girl!). Even at a speedy 95 minutes, a tad more attention span to some and jettisoning others might have elevated this. I would have enjoyed more screen time with Stache (Aaron Holliday), one of the wannabe ruffians, for example.
Elizabeth Banks directs and her third feature after Pitch Perfect 2 and Charlie’s Angels (the one no one talks about) is no whammy in the filmography. Due to the CG involved, no bears or cocaine were harmed in the production. It does generate a consistently amusing if disposable wild trip in the park.
*** (out of four)