Just because Cocaine Bear is ridiculous, bloody, and completely over-the-top doesn’t mean it can’t also be an important film. No, it’s not Citizen Kane, Nosferatu, or Steamboat Willie. The movie isn’t going to introduce a new genre nor will it be studied ad nauseam in future film classes. However, it delivers something that Hollywood has been starving for in recent years: originality.
Now, I’m not just being a movie snob and complaining about the current state of cinema. I can back this up with numbers. If you look at the 10 highest-grossing films of 2022, you’ll see what I’m talking about. All of those movies were either sequels, remakes, or part of an existing “cinematic universe” or some combination of the three, according to Box Office Mojo’s list. That’s nothing new. The same could be said about the highest-grossing films of the 2010s.
That’s not to say that there are no more successful films with original plots being made. However, those usually come from smaller studios or independent filmmakers. Cocaine Bear, on the other hand, has the money and distribution reach of Universal Studios behind it. Additionally, a few big names were attached to the film. Elizabeth Banks helmed the movie. It was Ray Liotta’s final role.
At the same time, Cocaine Bear gave moviegoers something they’d never seen before. Sure, movies about wild (and domesticated) animals attacking people have been done in the past. But, those animals didn’t get seemingly supernatural powers from booger sugar, did they?
Cocaine Bear: The Risk Is Paying Off
When screenwriter Jimmy Warden sent this script to Lord Miller productions, he never expected it to actually get made. He knew the bloody, coke-fueled, bear attack flick would be too big of a financial risk for many studios or production companies to take on.
Right now, Cocaine Bear is getting solid reviews. Rotten Tomatoes shows that the movie has a 69% critic rating and a slightly higher 72% audience score. However, what will weigh more heavily on studios in the future is the financial gains the film is making. According to Variety, the blow-dusted horror-comedy raked in $28.4 million from the global box office in its opening weekend. The movie only had a $35 million budget.
This may tempt bigger studios into taking on seemingly off-the-wall projects in the future. Cocaine Bear is proving that moviegoers want to see something different. They want to watch stories they’ve never heard fold out before their eyes.
While franchise movies, comic book flicks, and endless remakes of nostalgic properties remain popular, this movie proves that there’s an audience for something original. Some might even say that Cocaine Bear proves that plenty of people are ready to embark on a strange ride if it takes them to a new destination.
So, no, Cocaine Bear isn’t the height of filmmaking. The movie had plenty of imperfections and the plot was, in a word, bonkers. However, no one could honestly watch this movie and say that it was boring or predictable.
In short, after the success of lower-budget films like Cocaine Bear and M3gan, we may start seeing bigger studios gambling increasingly larger budgets on truly original ideas again.