Cocaine Bear Reviews Are Here, And Critics Seem To Be High On Elizabeth Banks' Gory Dark Comedy

Keri Russell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Margo Martindale in Cocaine Bear.
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Monster-like animals can be a great starting point for an action film, whether it’s a lion like in Beast or the prehistoric creatures in Jurassic World Dominion. Add to that the words “Based on a True Story,” and you’ve got a tasty theatrical stew cooking. Cocaine Bear is loosely inspired by real events, and audiences will see what happens when a 500-pound black bear goes on a rampage after ingesting large amounts of cocaine. The reviews are in, so let’s let the critics help us decide if we should grab a big glass of Diet Cokagne and head to the theater this weekend.

Director Elizabeth Banks is hoping to find box office success with Cocaine Bear, which boasts an ensemble cast that includes Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, to name a few, as well as the late Ray Liotta, who passed away in May 2022. The NSFW trailer promises a hilarious and gory horror comedy, so let’s see what the critics have to say, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Cocaine Bear. Our own Mike Reyes gives the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, calling the movie ridiculously fun, imploring moviegoers to “just say yes”: 

All roads lead to the bear, as another fine Weta Digital creation is stampeding through the national park where the characters are wandering. It’s a recipe that doesn't end up being perfect, but it lands solid enough that it just might be habit forming for a cult audience – or at least a word of mouth success that wins over moviegoers through sheer will alone.

Mike Ryan of Uproxx gives Cocaine Bear a resounding “Oh Hell Yes,” saying there’s no false advertising in the movie’s title, and this movie is everything he could have asked for. In his words: 

In the end, Cocaine Bear is the silly fun that a movie called Cocaine Bear should provide us, the audience looking for silly fun. This is not a movie that takes itself seriously, even though the gore rises to the level of some pretty good horror movies. (There’s one death scene, in particular, I found myself laughing out loud because it was so unexpected. I laughed and clapped my way through this entire movie.)

Lovia Gyarkye of THR calls the movie a “no thoughts, just vibes” kind of experience, with the 90-minute runtime aiming for maximum entertainment value, even if the details get murky if you look too closely. The critic continues: 

Because Cocaine Bear doesn’t take itself too seriously, you shouldn’t either. The creators toy with Cokey’s murderous tendencies, which are only triggered when she crosses paths with humans. An appetite for body horror is a prerequisite for fully appreciating the absurdity of the pain and torture inflicted upon people in the film: the chorus of shrill screams, limbs flying toward the camera, skin tearing like leather — you get the picture. Banks and [writer Jimmy Warden] take immense and infectious joy in engineering these scenarios, ratcheting up the ridiculousness to volley with our nerves. One minute you’re chuckling at a zingy one-liner, the next you’re muttering ‘what the fuck’ under your breath.

Jude Dry of IndieWire grades Cocaine Bear a "B-," calling it a clever but obvious cash grab on the part of Elizabeth Banks. And while it may provide a bump to the historically sleepy February movie scene, what you see in the title is what you get from this film. More from this review: 

The blatantly ridiculous appeal of Cocaine Bear is proof enough that the project isn’t lacking in self-awareness, but to what end? It’s not unhinged enough to qualify as full-blown parody, and not smart enough to be called satire. Banks seems uninterested in directly referencing exploitation movies of the past, or in burying winking cultural critiques within the outlandish action. Maybe that’s too much to ask from a movie called Cocaine Bear.

Aaron Neuwirth of We Live Entertainment also thinks the movie falls a little short, giving it a "user rating" of 5. The critic admits that there is a lot to like, though, including the CGI bear and the comedic timing of some of the cast. The review reads:  

While there’s fun to be found in director Elizabeth Banks’ horror-thriller-action(?)-dark comedy, it comes in sporadic form. With that in mind, it’s not as though a bear being powered by yayo doesn’t yield exciting results. I just wish the effort wasn’t so uneven.

If you are intrigued by what Elizabeth Banks and her cast have pulled off here, you can first give the Cocaine Bear a follow on Twitter and then watch Cocaine Bear online as it hits streaming services. Also be sure to check out our 2023 Movie Release Schedule to see what other films are headed to a theater near you. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.