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Elizabeth Banks’ cocaine comedy bear-ly makes sense: Movie Review

COCAINE BEAR | Universal Pictures
COCAINE BEAR | Universal Pictures

In the seven years I’ve reviewed movies for Oakville News, I don’t think I can name another film whose title is more wild, literal and astute as the new Cocaine Bear.

Passably directed by comedian and actress Elizabeth Banks, Universal’s horror comedy crime caper amplifies a weird incident from American history, when a 1985 drug run gone wrong resulted in a black bear in Tennessee accidentally ate an entire duffel bag of…you guessed: cocaine.

That, unfortunately, is where comparisons from the true story to the movie ends.

Cocaine Bear is surprisingly boring and shallow movie for the same reasons that 80 for Brady fumbled just a few weeks ago: so many ridiculous creative liberties were taken from the actual story that despite a great cast of actors, it comes across as dumb.

The Hollywood version of this story makes up 90% of the events that took place, many of them extremely (and unnecessarily) violent. While the real “cocaine bear” has no record of ever coming into contact with humans, the movie version has her rampaging, mauling and brutally murdering more than a dozen people.

While the brutal violence is off-putting (including several people killed on screen in equally interesting and disturbing ways), I will admit Banks’ direction does provide effective suspense and several jumpy surprises that are fun for horror fans.

But that’s where the fun ends. Given Banks’ career as a comedian, her skill at creating funny lines and scenes on screen are desperate and weak. Over 90 minutes, I only laughed one time, at a terrific one-liner from new young actor Christian Convery.

The rest of the cast does a great job executing unique characters fleeing the drug-crazed bear with fantastically empty material. All of the actors’ talents greatly outmatch the insipid and campy script they’ve been given.

The character we see surprisingly little of, however, is the actual bear. For a title character, she barely shows up in the first half of the movie, and more than half of the plot-related conversations have nothing to do with the bear at all.

Cocaine Bear, ultimately, is an interesting idea with maybe 15 minutes of exciting and worthwhile material. The rest of it is an extended wait for the bear for to come back and let hell break loose.

Cocaine Bear

5 out of 10

18A, 1hr 35mins. Comedy Crime Horror.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Starring Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Christian Convery, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Brooklynn Prince, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ray Liotta.

Now playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.