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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs after the Noon News at 12:30 p.m. and during The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | 'Cocaine Bear'

 Cocaine Bear
Universal Pictures
Cocaine Bear

Get the low down on whether Director Elizabeth Banks can make a horror comedy film out of the wild true story of a bear who eats cocaine dropped into a forest by drug smugglers.

Like its title, “Cocaine Bear” is pretty straight forward. Bad guy drops drugs from a plane into a forest. Bad guy dies jumping from the plane, leaving no one to pick up the drugs. Bear finds drugs in the forest. Bear eats drugs and goes crazy on forest hikers and other drug dealers who try to recover their lost cocaine.

“Cocaine Bear” benefited from great marketing, in particular a clever trailer that went viral. The result is the film’s opening weekend vastly exceeded initial revenue expectations jumping all the way to number two, trailing only Marvel’s latest "Antman" sequel. This initial box office success must be particularly gratifying for Director Elizabeth Banks, who criticized her last studio for dropping the ball on the marketing of her attempted reboot of the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise, leading to one of the worst openings of 2019.

However, Banks’ opening weekend financial redemption may not translate into long-term staying power for “Cocaine Bear.” While Banks films the story with exceptional cinematography of the forest landscape, some laugh-out-loud sequences, and successfully captures the nostalgia of the 1980s setting, the director fails to fully mine the absurdity of the story. The bear’s kills are gross and sometimes shocking, but not particularly funny or terrifying. The film’s funniest parts arise from subtle dialogue from a very good but underused cast. Margo Martindale is outstanding as the forest ranger lovestruck on a co-worker, newcomer Christian Convery shines as a foul-mouthed little kid, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. is pretty funny as a detective trying to nail the drug smugglers. But Ray Liotta as the drug smugglers’ boss, in his last film role before his death, Keri Russell as a mom searching for her little girl who’s on a hike playing hooky from school, and the rest of the supporting cast are sent up a river without a paddle. The CGI created bear is terrifically menacing but pops in and out of the screen faster than a whack-a-mole game, instead of suspenseful or even gotcha scares. The ride is kind of fun but the action is muted by over-sentimentality that neither seems necessary to the gags nor creates any audience empathy to the characters.

So, on my Black Diamond ski trail rating system, Cocaine Bear earns my intermediate BLUE ski trail rating. If you know you like this kind of film, there’s enough action and low- brow humor to keep you entertained for ninety minutes and the film easily surpasses the like-titled “Snakes on a Plane.” However, “Cocaine Bear” will likely leave most of its audience with that feeling it could have been so much better. Banks and writer Jimmy Warden fail to blend genres with a lackluster script and hokey implementation which waste their fantastic creation of the bear which was in fact terrifying.

Cocaine Bearis playing in theaters and rated R for drugs and drug use, repeated dismemberment, violence, and facial road rash.

City attorney by day, Friday Film Review critic by night.