Ever since it was first announced back in April, Cocaine Bear has held a very special place in the heart of moviegoers. A film based on the real life story of a 175lb black bear who ingested a duffel bag of abandoned cocaine in northern Georgia in 1985, Cocaine Bear seemed to have everything that a discerning modern audience would want in a film, which is to say a bear and some cocaine.
That said, there was also a sense that the film couldn’t possibly live up to the title. Cocaine Bear is such a perfect name for a movie that any attempt to flesh it out with actual content could easily be a disappointment. After all, the concept of a bear mashed off its face on cocaine is a lot more fun than the reality of a bear mashed off its face on cocaine. Let’s not forget that, in 1985, a medical examiner determined that the bear had suffered from brain haemorrhaging and failure of the kidney, heart and lungs, which meant that it most likely died terrified and in incredible pain. Which by all accounts would make for a monumental bummer of a film.
But now, anxious would-be Cocaine Bear fans can breathe a very small sigh of relief, because the first Cocaine Bear trailer has been released and, well, it doesn’t seem particularly afraid of its own premise.
As soon as the bear first looms into view, it is perfectly evident that the bear is absolutely, without question, on cocaine. It knocks a door off its hinges, snarling and drooling with a berserk look on its face. It rolls around on its back. It sprints along a road and dives head-first into a speeding ambulance. It pauses briefly to admire a passing butterfly. It vaults up a tree and eats Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family. All classic cocaine behavior.
The dialogue, too, mainly seems preoccupied with reassuring the audience that Cocaine Bear is a film about a bear that does cocaine. Shortly after the bear eats all the cocaine, a character says, “The bear, it fucking did cocaine,” a sentiment he swiftly clarifies by adding, “A bear did cocaine.” Seconds later, an older character announces – as solemnly as any human can – “Apex predator, high on cocaine, out of its mind.” Someone asks, surely rhetorically, “What the fuck is up with that bear?” Another looks at the bear and tells it, “Oh man, you fucked.” A child describes the bear as “fucked” with such undiluted relish that the line-reading is automatically destined to overshadow everything else he ever does in his career.
Clearly, on the basis of the trailer alone, Cocaine Bear is going to be an absolute blast. It looks like (and I have to admit that I say the following with an eye on it becoming the poster quote) it is exactly the sort of film you should see if your primary cinematic interests are bears and cocaine. If the film can sustain the sheer berserk energy of the trailer, then Cocaine Bear is destined to become a classic.
But let’s not get carried away. The world is full of movie trailers stuffed with overpromise, re-contextualising all the good bits in a way that the full film could never hope to emulate. Remember when the first Suicide Squad trailer was released? Remember how it tricked people into thinking that it was going to be good? And that was just a boring old superhero movie, containing exactly zero bears on cocaine.
Cocaine Bear, meanwhile, walks a much more precarious tightrope. People know what they want the film to be. The trailer has hinted that it will also be this film. So now Cocaine Bear has to walk it like it talks it. To fulfill the promise of the trailer, it needs to only be a film about a bear on cocaine. There must be no heavy-handed moralising about the drug trade. There must be minimal realistic depictions of a bear dying from a debilitating drug overdose. There should be no subplots whatsoever. I am going to watch Cocaine Bear. I am going to pay for my own ticket. But I swear to God, if I so much as sense any dialogue whatsoever that does not directly discuss what a bear is like when it is on cocaine, I am demanding a refund.
It’s an uphill task. Cocaine Bear may still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But if any film can pull it off, it’s Cocaine Bear. I believe in you, Cocaine Bear.