Thursday, February 23, 2023

This ‘Bear' didn't gnaw on my funny bone

   Braving snow and extreme cold, I went to a preview screening of Cocaine Bear. I didn’t expect a must-see movie but I was curious to learn what filmmakers might do with a story based on an oddball report from the 1980s.
   In 1985, a drug smuggler leaped from a plane after dumping much of the cocaine he was transporting. The poor man's parachute didn’t open, the smuggler died, and the cocaine landed in a Georgia forest. A bear ingested some of the cocaine. Eventually, it was found dead, too.
   I had never head the story before reading about the movie inspired by this long-ago incident but two things immediately struck me. Both the 1980s and cocaine jokes are culturally passé, a dated backdrop for a contemporary story.
    The movie’s trailer seemed to suggest that the filmmakers were trying for a blend of horror and comedy, mixing jump scares, gory gags, and goofy characters, nothing to be taken seriously. 
   That’s pretty much what the filmmakers achieve in a strained attempt to make something out of the movie’s weird hook.
   Director Elizabeth Banks concentrates the story in Georgia's Chattahochee-Oconee  National Forest where a variety of folks embark on different searches -- all while trying to avoid turning into bear food.
   -- A mom (Keri Russell) searches for her teenage daughter (Brooklynn Prince) and her daughter’s pal (Christian Convery). 
    -- A detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.)  tries to track down drug smugglers. 
    -- And some lame drug dealers (Alden Ehrenreich and O'Shea Jackson Jr.) seek to recover the product they hoped to sell. 
   -- In his final screen appearance, Ray Liotta plays the father of one of the drug dealers, a two-bit drug lord with little regard for human or animal life.
   -- Margo Martindale shows up as a horny park ranger. 
   I'm omitting some of the cast but it hardly matters because many of the movie’s humans wind up in pieces anyway. A severed leg here. A head there. Entrails streaming from torsos. You get the idea.
   Of course, a CGI bear terrorizes everyone with its claws, jaws, bear slobber, and insatiable appetite for increasing quantities of cocaine.  
   Banks can’t get much beyond the novel allure of the movie’s title, and Cocaine Bear, at least for me, didn't whip up enough scares or laughs to satisfy any initial curiosity.

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