Salty Air

‘Cocaine Bear’ a rip-roaring good time — Play It Again, Tim

Written by Tim Miller

Santa, I want a Cocaine Bear action figure for Christmas!

It comes with packets of coke for accessories, and several toy humans to be eaten and have their limbs torn off. (“Batteries and buckets of blood are not included.”)

How else to extend the experience of “Cocaine Bear” (R, 95 minutes, in theaters)? The horror comedy involves, as you might suspect, a bear that snorts up and eats a lot of cocaine, and goes on a gruesome rampage.

Director Elizabeth Banks goes to absurd extremes to amp up the drug-crazed insanity and grisly violence, and that’s what makes “Cocaine Bear” so outrageous – and so outrageously funny.

Remarkably, it’s based on a true story, though odds are pretty good that Banks and screenwriter Jimmy Warden took a few artistic liberties.

Set in the 1980s, “Cocaine Bear” jump-starts with Jefferson Starship’s “Jane” blasting on the soundtrack while a tweaked-out drug runner is tossing out bricks of coke from a plane before jumping out himself.

Cocaine Bear is one coked-out critter. (Universal Pictures)

Things don’t go well for the smuggler (as we see in one of the most uproarious bits in the film), but the bricks land safely, scattered about the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia. A bear discovers one packet, then another, then another … and it wants more.

Meanwhile, several oddball characters – hikers, a couple of schoolkids and the mom of one of them, local thugs, a park ranger, cops, St. Louis mobsters looking to retrieve the drugs, and others – encounter the bear, with extremely unpleasant results.

It’s the stuff of a schlocky Grade-Z movie, and, in a way, that’s exactly what “Cocaine Bear” is. But that’s by design, and it works in just the right way because Banks and Co. aren’t self-consciously campy but just full-on insane in their approach. Normally, there’s nothing funny about mutilation (even when it’s supposed to be), but the no-holds-barred “How bad can this situation get?” display here will have you wincing and laughing at the same time.

That’s assuming you have a sick sense of humor, of course.

The cast includes Keri Russell as the mom, Ray Liotta (in one of his last roles) as the mob boss, Alden Ehrenreich as the mob boss’ son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. (son of Ice Cube) as one of the mob henchmen, Margo Martindale as Ranger Liz, and Scott Seiss as an EMT.

Seiss, if you don’t know (or even if you do), is the guy playing a ranting IKEA employee this gut-busting TikTok video:

You’re welcome. **** (out of four) for the Seiss video; ***½ for “Cocaine Bear”

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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