In a recent Variety interview, Elizabeth Banks talks about her new directorial effort Cocaine Bear, saying “This could be a career ender for me.” If we could only be so lucky.
Cocaine Bear is exactly the movie you think it’ll be but not nearly the movie it could have been. Almost intentionally bad but not quite clever enough to pull such a feat off, the movie is about a black bear that gets addicted to cocaine and goes on a killing rampage. Stuffed with clunky dialogue, awkward characters, and an oddly inconsistent spattering of gore, Cocaine Bear features bursts of entertainment–but not nearly enough to fill its seemingly lean 95-minute runtime.
This movie was never going to be an award-winner, but in capable hands Cocaine Bear could have been a darkly funny gorefest. It has its moments, and almost all of those moments include the bear killing and maiming people on screen. The nearly packed theater groaned and laughed at the goriest moments; this was a communal experience, for sure.
But it’s just a badly made movie. I’ve always been a fan of Elizabeth Banks the actress, but Elizabeth Banks the director… not so much. Charlie’s Angels was a poorly made and utterly bland action-comedy that wasted its opportunities, and Cocaine Bear is a poorly made and blandly told horror-comedy.
The film’s writing is atrocious, and while it comes close to “so bad it’s good” territory, neither Banks nor writer Jimmy Warden (The Babysitter) commit wholeheartedly. What’s baffling is that Banks chooses at random to kill people off screen, when the gory kills are the selling point. The kills that are shown are somewhat gruesome, but in the hands of a better director they could have been downright sensational. When the bear isn’t on screen, the movie struggles mightily thanks to the shoddy writing; this is a movie made by people who seemed to think “not giving a shit” is the same as “let’s give audiences a wild ride.”
Like a bad trip, Cocaine Bear overstays its welcome and then some. It isn’t without its strengths, but this is a bad movie that wants to pretend all of its shortcomings are intentional–and welcome. This thing could have been a whole lot better; as is, don’t bother taking a bite out of–or a snort of–this massive disappointment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.