Cocaine Bear review: beastly high-jinx movie will leave you gasping and giggling

 (Film handout)
(Film handout)

Let them eat coke... In this raucous US comedy, wild bears and hooky-playing youngsters just gobble up the white stuff. If the thought of that appals you, then just about everything that happens in actress Elizabeth Banks’ third go at directing will leave you sick to your stomach.

While watching Cocaine Bear, you can actually feel your IQ level tumbling. Yep, it was right up my alley. I yawned through the first act, but spent the next hour either gasping or giggling.

Cocaine Bear is based on a true story - well, barely. In 1985, an unfortunate drug trafficker really did die while dropping duffel bags full of angel dust from a plane. An even more unfortunate black bear, in the Chattahoochee National Forest, found one of those bags.

That’s where reality and the film part company. In real life, the bear did not then go on a homicidal rampage. As for the gun-toting park ranger (Margo Martindale), dog-loving cops (Isiah Whitlock Jr; Ayoola Smart), bickering drug dealers (the late Ray Liotta in one of his last screen performances, plus O’Shea Jackson Jr and Alden Ehrenreich), an intrepid parent (Keri Russell) and the aforementioned kids (Brooklynn Prince and Christian Convery): well, they’re fictional, too.

Fortunately, they’re also easy to root for. While some characters make it out alive – you won’t be able to guess which ones – all of them make an impression, especially the bears.

Prince (devastatingly subtle in The Florida Project) was wasted The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Here, playing a girl who’s innocently fascinated by the concept of being wasted, she’s on much better form. And Convery, as her increasingly discombobulated side-kick, is adorable.

The smartest thing about Banks’ happily dim movie is the way it presents itself as a farce for boys (and tom-boys), then swerves in a different direction. It’s Jaws meets Gilmore Girls and Brave. As a feminist-flavoured slice of populism it works far better than the 49-year-old’s embarrassing attempt to reboot Charlie’s Angels. This time, where Charlie is concerned, Banks knows exactly what she’s doing.

Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street. They know how to appeal to goofballs of all ages. Go on, give them permission to blow you away.

In cinemas