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.”