Cocaine Bear. A powerful phrase, imbued with the image of god knows how many feverishly imagined narcotics-fueled maulings and deeply traumatized pic-a-nic baskets. And also the evocative bit of language powering the new trailer for, well, Cocaine Bear, Universal’s upcoming dark comedy that apparently hopes to do for bears and cocaine what another little movie did, lo these many years ago, for snakes and planes.
There is, as it happens, a lot to unpack in the just-released trailer for Cocaine Bear, one of the loudest and most aggressive movie trailers we’ve watched in recent memory. And while we’ve got plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the film’s February 24, 2023 release, it still feels like as good a time as any to dive deep into several of the weirdest takeaways from this two-minute, nineteen-seconds sensory assault.
Even before the titular coke bear shows up on screen, we get our first weird “Hey, it’s that guy!” moment, sending us racing to our phones to confirm that, yeah, that’s The Angry Retail Guy playing a paramedic. That is, it’s comedian Scott Seiss, who’s gained a great deal of well-earned viral fame over the last few years for a series of TikTok videos in which he plays a retail employee addressing customer complaints with frank honesty. (The hyper-intense soundtrack doesn’t hurt.) Per IMDB, Cocaine Bear is Seiss’ first appearance in a feature film.
As the trailer itself asserts, Cocaine Bear is “inspired” by true events, a phrasing that usually suggests a fairly hefty amount of bullshit underpinned by a smattering of reality. The true parts here are fairly light: In 1985, a drug trafficker did toss a load of cocaine out of a plane, and it did end up consumed by a bear. Rather than go on a superpowered rampage, though, the poor animal just did what anyone would do after eating 40 pounds of cocaine: Die.
After overdosing, the body of the bear was eventually acquired by Kentucky-based gift shop brand Kentucky For Kentucky—who also appear to have coined the “Cocaine Bear” nickname, by the by, along with the less-catchy “Pablo EskoBear”—who’ve had it on display ever since. So, less a fun story of ursine chaos, and more a reminder that humanity kills basically everything it touches, and then uses the corpse to sell fried chicken-flavored candles to tourists.
It’s not clear yet exactly how many films veteran actor Ray Liotta had in the can when he died back in May, at the age of 67. (He’s got a few different projects that were listed as in-production or post-production at the time of his death, although release dates are hard to scrounge up.) But Cocaine Bear was certainly one of them, and will now live in perpetuity as one of the first things anyone sees when they check the Goodfellas and Field Of Dreams star’s IMDB page. So that’s something.
As we alluded to above, the marketing for Cocaine Bear is clearly going the “Whoa, so crazy!” route, rather than attempting to sell this as, like, a critical appraisal of human-bear relations. That being said, we were a bit surprised to see that director Elizabeth Banks is completely absent—including even listing her name—from the trailer; we know that the 2019 Charlie’s Angels movie didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but between her work as an actor, and the success of her first feature, Pitch Perfect 2, you’d still expect Universal to try to get some pull from Banks’ name. But what do we know? Cocaine Bear is clearly the star of Cocaine Bear.
That being said, we can’t help but notice this is a pretty good cast for a pretty silly movie: Besides Liotta and Seiss (and Isiah Whitlock Jr., who’d also be our first choice for who we’d want telling us we were doomed to be murdered by a cocained bear), the film also features an unlikely The Americans reunion between Keri Russell and Margo Martindale. Russell’s pink track suit and high-caliber hunting rifle are clearly trying to steal the show, but if we’re being honest, we’re a lot more compelled by the idea of Margo Martindale fighting off a drug-addled bear. (We also definitely wouldn’t bet on the bear in that scenario.) Update: We just now noticed that Matthew Rhys is the guy throwing the coke out of the plane. What a weird place for this cast to reunite!
Cocaine Bear claws its way into theaters in February 2023.