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Hollywood has a new star — a bear that gets into a lost cocaine stash

Universal Pictures
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A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Hollywood has a new star, and it's a bear, a really agitated bear. OK. Why am I dancing around this? It's a bear high on cocaine that goes on a killing spree.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COCAINE BEAR")

CHRISTIAN CONVERY: (As Henry) You're safe. Bears can't climb trees.

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON: (As Peter) Of course they can.

MARTÍNEZ: It's loosely based on a true story, and it's titled, appropriately enough, "Cocaine Bear." It mauled the competition this weekend, coming in second with $23 million in box office earnings.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "COCAINE BEAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Apex predator, high on cocaine, it's out of its mind.

MARTÍNEZ: So awesome. Linda Holmes from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast has seen it. Her heart rate has returned to normal. She's here. Linda, to know that there's even a tiny shred of fact about a black comedy horror film called "Cocaine Bear" is kind of amazing. Give us a short summary.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Well, the only part of this that is real is that in 1985, there was a drug smuggling mishap that resulted in a bunch of bags of cocaine getting dumped in the forest, and a black bear found it and ate it. And unfortunately, the bear died. This movie presumes instead of the bear dying, the bear goes on a wild mauling, killing spree as various people come through the forest looking for the cocaine or looking for the bear.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I'm looking forward to your examination of the many layers of metaphor here.

HOLMES: Yeah, there aren't any.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

HOLMES: The thing about "Cocaine Bear" that I like so much - and I do mean that - is that they used to call action movies, like, "Towards The Danger" (ph) or, like, "Under Suspicion" (ph). But now they've just decided we're just going to call it "Cocaine Bear." And it's the same thing. There was a movie earlier this year about a plane that went down, and they just called it "Plane." And I think there is a sense that, like, let's just say what we're doing.

MARTÍNEZ: It's like when a store has a store brand kind of item...

HOLMES: Right. Absolutely.

MARTÍNEZ: ...As opposed to, like, the brand name.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Just say what the thing is, and that way, people feel like they are getting their money's worth because it's hard for me to imagine somebody being like, I want to go see "Cocaine Bear" and not feeling like they got "Cocaine Bear."

MARTÍNEZ: Elizabeth Banks, she's the director here. She also directed one of the "Pitch Perfect" movies and also one of the "Charlie's Angels" movies. What did she bring to this?

HOLMES: I think she has a genuinely kind of offbeat sensibility. She is also an actress who's done lots of comedy. And I think that she brings a certain wacky sensibility, as do the producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have also worked on movies like "The Lego Movie" and "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" and stuff like that. They also take a lot of movies that seem like bad ideas and make them into good ideas.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Linda, let me ask you this because my 30-something-year-old son sees all of the '80s slasher movies with his daughters, my granddaughters. So is this movie, "Cocaine Bear," something I could take a 13- and a 9-year-old to see?

HOLMES: Well, it is an R-rated movie, and it is gory. I think it is important to think of this as more like a slasher movie than, like, an action movie. You will see a lot of blood and innards and things like that. Everybody feels differently about that. I would not have been allowed to see this when I was 9, but many, many 9-year-olds have seen movies like this.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, one more thing really quick, Linda. I imagine it's probably more fun to see it with as many people as you can.

HOLMES: Absolutely. I think you have to see this movie with at least five people. If you go to a theater and see it, that's fine. If you're going to see it later, invite some people over because sitting there by yourself watching "Cocaine Bear" might make you feel silly or lonely.

MARTÍNEZ: Linda Holmes talks about all this stuff in much greater detail at the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Linda, thanks.

HOLMES: Oh, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.