No holds are barred in ‘Cocaine Bear’ movie


Pablo Alcala/TNS

“Pablo Escobear” on display at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington.

Jacob Repkin, Staff Writer

Universal Pictures’ new film, “Cocaine Bear,” contains elements from many genres, but no label fits it better than that of absurdist comedy. The mere concept of it is inherently ridiculous, and the movie knows this.

Going into the movie theater to see “Cocaine Bear,” the audience is given a simple promise: by the time they leave, they will have seen cocaine, a bear, and a bear on cocaine. On this simple promise, the movie delivers, and does so admirably. It’s deranged and ludicrous and utterly hilarious.


Before anything else, there is a bear in the room worth addressing, that being this film’s claim to being “BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.” Indeed, on Sept. 11, 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Carter Thornton II dropped 75 pounds of cocaine over northeastern Georgia, before himself jumping out of his plane and dying when his parachute failed to open. Three months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found a black bear in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest that had died from a cocaine overdose. It now stands in taxidermied immortality at a mall in Lexington, Kentucky, having been dubbed “Pablo Escobear.”


At the start, all of the events described above are depicted in an accurate, if satirized way. However, after the first ten minutes, the film is complete fantasy — or in a more honest description, an insane fever dream.


There are two separate storylines in the film, one focusing on the associates of Andrew Thornton and another on the locals of the area where the cocaine was dropped. The film is willing to indulge in drama among these characters which feels unneeded and ponderous, and there’s a sense that much of it is only there to pad out the film’s runtime. Ultimately though, it’s just window dressing for the main event, and doesn’t try to be anything more, so it doesn’t deserve to be judged too harshly.


The cinematography, music, and other technical aspects of the film are in the same category as the plot: functional. They do their job adequately, but go no further than that. The one technical achievement of this film worth mentioning is the bear itself, which is entirely computer generated, but looks just as real as the other characters, with very few exceptions.


“Cocaine Bear” shines the most when it revels in its absurdity, such as when two schoolchildren find some of the dropped cocaine and try to eat it to prove to each other how street-smart they are, or when the bear decides to take a nap atop Alden Ehrenreich’s character, Eddie, then proceeds to ingest an entire brick of cocaine and waltz with him. The premise of this movie is one that is practically swimming in comedic potential, and though much of that potential was sacrificed for a mediocre-at-best plot, it remains incredibly humorous.


There isn’t a great deal to say about “Cocaine Bear.” There is cocaine, there is a bear, and there is a bear on cocaine, complete with all the drugged-up shenanigans that one could expect.