There’s more than a passing resemblance between “Cocaine Bear” and “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Directed by Elizabeth Banks (who appeared in “Summer”), “Bear” hugs a cheap retro feel in its path to telling a true story. Campers, looking for summer fun, circa 1985, encounter a bear who has found a stash of cocaine that fell out of a plane.
Goofy, violent and seemingly everywhere, the bear torments a who’s who of television actors, including Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Keri Russell and Margo Martindale.
The close encounters are larger than life and, at times, extremely violent. As much as a pre-teen may want to see this, it probably isn’t a good idea. Legs, fingers and a head roll in the course of a day.
On the cocaine trail: a cartel that just wants to get its hands on those bricks of Coke. Led by Ray Liotta (who, sadly, should have had a better film among his final credits), they wind up in the same space as Russell, two kids, the bear and a couple of cubs.
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Who lives, who dies, who tells the story? That’s something for greater directors. Here, Banks pieces together scenes that are both outrageous and disconnected. She gets a few moments (a Smokey Bear standup is a great sight gag) and a great performance from Martindale. But a lot of this seems like it was cobbled, not created.
Since the real cocaine bear died without attacking anyone (the drugs were, apparently, too much) writer Jimmy Warden concocted the search-and-destroy mission and added a few gore moments that might please the “Texas Chainsaw” crowd.
Laughs exist, but they’re often dependent on the crowd who’s watching. See this on a Friday night, for example, and you’ll have more fun than you might on a Sunday afternoon.
Ferguson and Russell don’t enjoy the ride as much as Martindale and Liotta. There’s a goofy segment with Aaron Holliday, Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr. that lives up to the film’s superb trailer but it, too, drifts once Eherenreich is pounced on by the bear.
Because this is likely to make a ton of money, expect “Cocaine Cubs” to follow. They’re still on the loose, supposedly, and just ready for a meet-and-greet with anyone toting cocaine.
It’s no “Snakes on a Plane,” but “Cocaine Bear” takes high-concept to another level and proves nothing is too outrageous for audiences desperate to laugh.