What you see is what you get. I cannot think of a better summary of this movie than that. However, that is what made this movie all the more disappointing. With all of the hype and joyful excitement surrounding this film, I wanted a lot more. Maybe I set my expectations way too high, but with Elizabeth Banks as the director, I had hoped this movie would give audiences a reason to make it a cult classic. That is not to say that this movie doesn’t deliver some entertaining moments and gnarly kills, but ultimately Cocaine Bear is about as transparent as an open window.
Based on actual events, Cocaine Bear tells the true story of what happens when a large shipment of the said drug falls into the clutches of a black bear in a Georgia park. Forced to unload this massive shipment from an airplane, drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton (Matthew Rhys) desperately unloads his payload of cocaine into a forest below him. As people explore the park, as they usually would, these visitors are attacked by an American black bear irrationally and uncharacteristically on the rampage. Drug kingpin Syd Dentwood (Ray Liotta) tasks his depressed son Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and an employee Daveed (O’Shea Jackson), to retrieve his lost merchandise. Meanwhile, single, working mother Sari (Kerri Russell) searches for her daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Pierce) and Dee’s best friend Henry (Christian Convery), who both ditched school to play in the forest.
With a script by Jimmy Warden, Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear is simply a B-movie. It is a basic animal attack movie. However, there was so much room for great comedy, and some social commentary here, that the filmmakers squandered this golden opportunity. While the basic premise is absurd, the fact that this story happened (to a minimal degree) left so much room for imagination and creativity. And that’s what disappointed me the most.
Banks and her casting director have assembled an excellent cast for the film, and everyone performs accordingly. However, the screenplay by Jimmy Warden gives everyone so little to do. Even the subplots involving these characters fall short and only deliver moderate entertainment. The idea behind making this movie is inspired but held back by its oversimplicity and the failure to think outside the box. The film is good enough to be watched with friends but doesn’t deserve top-dollar tickets at the box office. If this movie is successful enough, I hope that anyone who should take on a sequel will go big or go home.