By Gary J. Carlson
Special to the Voice
Call me a “party-pooper—the parent who turns on the basement lights and tells everyone to go home, the cop who pulls you over and gives you more than just a warning, the teacher who doesn’t give you the “A” you were so sure you deserved, the doctor who doesn’t just smile and tell you it was all a “false alarm.”
Sorry, but after seeing Cocaine Bear—the movie that everyone else in the world seems to be raving about—I felt like I needed to take a shower. Case in point, when I made my usual post-movie pit stop at what used to be called the “Men’s Room,” I recognized the guy at my elbow. My wife and I had seen him walk in with his daughter. They had sat in our row, and both of us had wondered aloud why any parent would take a young child to see this movie. Mind you, the movie hadn’t even begun yet. So here it was, two hours later, and as I was walking out of the (excuse the expression) “Men’s Room,” I passed by his daughter, who was waiting for her daddy. This girl could not have been more than 10 years old, and she looked positively traumatized—pale as a ghost, standing there against the wall, staring down at her feet. That movie had obviously disturbed her. It sure as hell had disturbed and disgusted me, and yet the bulk of the audience—mostly male, mostly in their late teens, twenties, and thirties—had been howling, hysterically laughing as yet another hapless character in the film had been eviscerated, literally and bloodily disemboweled, by a crazed, cocaine-fueled 500-pound bear, the camera refusing to look away, but instead, almost lovingly capturing every bloody second of this human being’s agony and death. Ha-ha-ha. Can anyone tell me, please, why on earth a father might want to share that experience with his ten-year-old daughter?
I certainly can’t. In fact, I don’t understand how ANYONE would consider it entertaining to sit there and watch one mindless, senseless act of violence after another, as the Bear in question and an assortment of human refuse (gangsters, punks, drug dealers, crooked cops, a sex-starved park ranger, etc.) wreak havoc upon each other for the usual reasons (stupidity, greed, the need to get high, etc.), all while spouting ridiculous and profane cliché-ridden dialogue that sounded like it had been written by a 5th grader. I take that back—most 5th graders I know would have probably come up with better, more believable dialogue, and a better story as well—one that was actually funny or truly terrifying. ANYTHING would have been better than this pointless, directionless, unfeeling, unfunny mess of a movie. Why am I not surprised that the financial backers of this project were “sold” on the script the minute they saw the title? Based very loosely on a real incident (drug dealers-plane crash-cocaine dropped in forest-bear gets into it and dies). Admittedly, even I can see the potential of this material. Obviously, that’s why we went to see the film. We had also read a couple of glowing reviews that somehow managed not to even mention the gorefest that it is—or the inane dialogue, the complete absence of character development or motivation (other than the most obvious and predictable), the terrible “unfunniness” of its humor, and the empty mindlessness of the whole sordid enterprise. Is anyone else out there sick and tired of movies that are either derived from or play out like bad video games, of dialogue that too unashamedly “lame” and obvious to be believed, of characters who only seem to exist is to serve as “targets” for violence, of filmmakers who are so unimaginative that every single shot telegraphs what is about to happen next? I get that most of this is probably done intentionally and represents the filmmakers’ concessions to the “rules” of the genre. But when the “rules” cease to work—when what you are doing doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful or truly entertaining, isn’t it time to just STOP—to yell “CUT!” and then ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?”
Evidently, nobody bothered to do that on the film. Perhaps the scent of all the money-to-be-made was just too overpowering. But what do you do with a film that thinks it’s funny to show pre-teens trying to show how “cool” they are by “doing” some of the coke they found and eating it like so much powdered sugar? Fun-ny, huh? That is the level of humor operating in this film. It’s humor that objectifies characters to the point where they cease to be truly, recognizably human; instead, they become fodder, living sacrificial lambs to be blithely offered up to the god of entertainment—new millennium style. As I sat there in the theater, averting my eyes from the screen, listening to the helpless screams of the movie’s latest victim mingling with the laughter of the delighted audience, I kept thinking about the ancient Romans reacting the same way as hapless Christians were being fed to starving lions. Is THAT where we are now, culturally speaking? Is death, suffering, punishment okay—even funny—as long as the victims aren’t worth “caring about”? All I know is that I walked out of that theater feeling ashamed of myself for having wasted my money on such garbage and for having participated in something that felt so evil—perhaps even dangerous—and certainly damaging to the human spirit. So no, I did not like Cocaine Bear, and I would certainly not recommend it to anyone I cared about.
One final criticism? While I take full responsibility for going to see Cocaine Bear, which is R-rated and not intended for children, I had NO CONTROL over the coming attractions, and I was shocked and appalled by the crude language, the violence, and the sexual content of the trailers they showed. I guess the feeling is that “anything goes” at an R-rated movie; however, when one of the movies is basically a CARTOON about four dogs from “the hood,” and every other word out of these dog’s mouths is “fxxk you” and “motherfxxking” this and that, and “I’m gone bite your dxxk off” (repeated 3 times in this one trailer!), I’ve had enough. I went and complained to the manager. Whatever happened to trailers for General Audiences? Is this really the best that Hollywood can do, the only way they can entice people to go to their movies? I just find it incredibly sad that this is what entertainment has devolved to—an excuse to revel in crude language and behavior that serves little purpose other than to belittle and diminish, rather than uplift and entertain. I don’t believe in censorship, and I also believe that sex and violence and offensive language are at times necessary components of some films. However, Cocaine Bear is NOT one of those films. I found it to be a profoundly exploitive, cynical exercise in filmmaking—one that fails miserably as entertainment and appeals to the very worst in us. Please, don’t encourage Hollywood to make more of this sort of tripe by going to see it.