This post contains spoilers for "Cocaine Bear."
In "Cocaine Bear," middle-schoolers Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery) skip school and do drugs — but it's not what it sounds like. Sure, Dee Dee is a bit of a rebel, but only because her mom, Sari (Keri Russell), changed their weekend plans to hang out with her new boyfriend. In protest, Dee Dee recruits her best friend to hike through Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and spray paint a waterfall. As Henry snarkily points out, it's a thinly-veiled attempt to win back her mom's attention; Dee Dee hopes that when Sari realizes she's run off by herself, she'll feel bad about canceling. But things take a turn when the two kids discover a package of cocaine and get attacked by a bear.
You heard the title, right? This isn't just any bear — it's a bear with a drug problem and a bad case of the munchies. This is a bear who fully delivers on the title of the film by spending 95 minutes viciously mauling an ensemble of random unfortunates who happen to be wandering her forest.
Seeing the dangerously high apex predator cross paths with two innocent children might seem a bit dark for the coked-up comedy, but it's preceded by one of the funniest scenes in the movie. This moment, however, is also pretty messed up, and director Elizabeth Banks says it was "definitely controversial" when they were putting the movie together.
'It Doesn't Work If They're Teenagers'
A bear doing lines of cocaine? Fine. That coked-up bear ripping off heads and feasting on human entrails? Fair enough. But two 12 year olds stumbling upon the very same cocaine and giving it a taste? For some viewers, that might be where the film crosses a line.
Before the titular cocaine bear even enters their lives, Dee Dee and Henry have stumbled across trouble in the form of a big brick of cocaine. Henry tries to play it cool, insisting he's done the drug a million times before. When Dee Dee calls his bluff and asks how exactly you "do cocaine," Henry tells her that you're supposed to eat it and a standard dose is about a tablespoon. Dee Dee uses the blade of a knife to scoop up a mouthful of cocaine, before daring Henry to follow suit. It's both hilarious and horrifying to watch, and that's the point.
"It was definitely controversial," Banks recently told Variety. "There were conversations about, 'should we age up these characters?'" But Banks and her team quickly decided that altering the characters would ruin the moment. "We all kind of held hands and we were like, 'Guys, they've got to be 12.' It's their innocence being tested. That's what was interesting to me about that scene."
Watching two kids handle cocaine is an excellent movie theater moment, toeing the line between horror and hilarity to evoke groans, gasps, and lots of nervous laughter. People have been cringing away from the rampant teen drug use in "Euphoria" for years (especially because it doesn't shy away from the painful impact of addiction). "Cocaine Bear" capitalizes on that inherent discomfort, but takes it to a new extreme.
"It's the naïveté of the kids that makes it OK," added producer Christopher Miller. "It's what makes it so tense and funny. It doesn't work if they're teenagers."
Drugs Are No Laughing Matter
Pushing the envelope is the point of "Cocaine Bear," according to executive producer Phil Lord. "It has to be a proposition that you haven't seen before," he said. "It has to feel a little bit transgressive — like, this is too naughty to watch at home." What could be naughtier than a 12 year old eating cocaine?
If it helps, the scene is also explicitly played for laughs. Both kids immediately spit the drug out in disgust. In Warden's original script for "Cocaine Bear," the movie opened with this scene: two middle schoolers daring each other to eat cocaine. But when Banks came on as director, the opening became a Matthew Rhys cameo, in which drug smuggler Andrew C. Thornton II drops cocaine out of a plane, kickstarting the chain of events that leads to Dee Dee and Henry's illegal taste test. As for what the kids were actually eating, Banks told Insider:
"It was mostly sugar but we did add a little salt because we wanted their reaction to be as real as possible and I felt if we fed these kids just sugar, I don't think they are going to think it tastes bad."
Drugs are no laughing matter (except for the shot where the bear does a line of coke off a severed leg), and Henry and Dee Dee definitely learn that the hard way. It's hard to imagine them being pumped about recreational drug use after seeing a man torn to shreds by an extremely coked-up bear. Banks also made sure to point out that the same lesson was made clear to the young actors — along with pretty much anyone who has seen the movie.
"This movie is not pro-drug," Banks told Insider. "That's obvious. We are not glorifying drugs in this film. So the kids got that. They weren't interested in it. And their parents were there the whole time. They were well supervised."
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The post One Of The Funniest Scenes In Cocaine Bear Almost Got Neutered appeared first on /Film.