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Rotten Tomatoes Critics Agree Cocaine Bear Is A Hell Of A Movie

Political differences. Social stigmas. A world that's never been so crowded somehow makes us feel like we've never been farther apart. In these divisive times, it can be difficult to imagine anything bringing people together.

Or it could feel that way, back before "Cocaine Bear" puttied in the cracks of our philosophical divides and reminded us what life is really all about: A woodland critter stuffed to the Pacinos with so much white gold that it's surprising it didn't accidentally write "Coneheads." The tale of a drug-addled ursine juggernaut, directed by the always astonishing Elizabeth Banks, takes its inspiration from the real-world story of a 175-pound black bear that ate roughly a third of its weight in cocaine in 1985 before promptly becoming not alive anymore. As it often is in Hollywood reimaginings, the details were inflated for the big-screen adaptation. In the world of "Cocaine Bear," the bear is bigger. Angrier. Significantly more driven to find more cocaine.

Bananas? You bet, and its bold mission statement and unforgettably forthright title have made "Cocaine Bear" 2023's favorite big-screen underdog. The only question on potential viewers' minds (besides "why didn't they name the bear John Baloo-shi?") was whether or not the movie would be any good.

Wonder no more, gentle travelers. The reviews for "Cocaine Bear" have finally hit the internet, and they are, without a doubt, you know, okay.

Cocaine Bear: A movie that knows what it's about

As of February 23, 2023, "Cocaine Bear" has a meaty 41 reviews posted to Rotten Tomatoes. The good news: The vast majority of critics were charmed by the story of a bear who probably has a lot of ideas for a screenplay. The medium news: There's only so much "charmed" to go around. Maybe the best way to describe it is as a well-received movie with an asterisk attached.

See, at present, "Cocaine Bear" boasts a more-than-solid 83% approval rating on the review aggregator, putting it well on its way to "Certified Fresh" status. Unsurprisingly, though, critics have been quick to point out that the R-rated horror-comedy is not for everyone. "Is the movie good?" asks Owen Glieberman of Variety. "No. Is it bad?" he continues. "Not quite. Is it ridiculous in a shameless and flamboyant enough way to be a gonzo delight? Only if you set the bar low enough by going in expecting that that's what you're going to see, in which case the power of suggestion might tilt you toward thinking that it is."

Also, not to editorialize, but it's criminal how few reviewers described the movie as "off the rails." Gene Siskel would've made a meal out of that.

The staggering highs and soul-shaking lows of Cocaine Bear

If there's a common thread in the reviews for "Cocaine Bear," it's that the movie knows what it is — and helpfully, just by reading the title, the viewer does, too. "The problem with 'Cocaine Bear,'" writes Daniel Bayer of Awards Watch, is that "It really only has one joke, and it's right there in the title." And while he complains lightly about a lack of deep characterization, his solid B-rated review goes on to state that the shallowness is all part of the show. "No one goes to a film called 'Cocaine Bear' to watch the humans caught in the bear's path," he preaches. "Of course you're meant to root for the bear!"

Not everyone was on board, however. Grading the film a C-minus, Silver Screen Riot's Matt Oakes lamented that if "you're looking for things like three-dimensional characters, well-written bits, or even basic movie logic, you'll find Elizabeth Banks' film pretty, well, barren." He went on to call the comedy "lazy pastiche, mistaking commenting on what's happening with actual jokes." On the plus side, he did fully acknowledge that the movie features a bear on cocaine, which is just about the highest baseline praise that a motion picture called "Cocaine Bear" could reasonably expect to receive.

"Cocaine Bear" comes tearing into theaters on February 24.