Cocaine Bear—The Value Of The Lowbrow

Are Lowbrow Movies Worth Being Produced In Cinema Today?


In today’s day and age, movies are more varied and diverse than ever. Whether the latest from a big name like Tarantino on Spielberg, an indie hit from A24 or the next in the superstar franchise that is the MCU, there’s something for everyone. However, in the last ten years one form of movie has begun to die off—the lowbrow movie.

Whether your B-list horror slasher or the raunchy comedy produced by a semi-famous comedian, this genre of movie once intertwined with cinema is now gone. You may be wondering what the issue is, isn’t it good that movies have moved away from this lower form of entertainment? Aren’t there more interesting topics and content? But the value of lowbrow movies is obvious with the return of the genre in the surprise hit: Cocaine Bear.

Movies are undeniably an art form. Yet they seem afraid to have fun with themselves. Even a comedy wants to be seen for its entertainment value of a clever script and charismatic performances, not because the movie itself is fun to laugh at. If a movie is afraid the audience will find the premise too ridiculous to follow, it often pokes fun at itself as a tactic to make the audience more comfortable. A movie wants to be enjoyed on its own terms, which can make seeing movies become bland. If a movie isn’t willing to give you an angle on itself besides appreciating exactly what the director wanted, the movie becomes less engaging to talk about. Think about the amount of smash hits in the past few years that after a month that have become forgotten in larger conversations. Every Marvel movie is popular until the next one releases. A movie is only allowed to be laughed at if it’s seen as a bad movie—enter the idea for Cocaine Bear.

Cocaine Bear, and lowbrow movies in general, break this norm. These are movies that aren’t pretending to be masterpieces, that don’t need to be critically acclaimed. These are movies that want you to laugh at them. No one working on Cocaine Bear took the movie super seriously, and it shows. A film directed by Elizabeth Banks, written by Jimmy Warden, and released as Crazy Bear in some countries. The performances are fun, the cinematography is wonderfully over the top, and the general vibe of the movie is just so enjoyable.

It’s not a bad movie, it’s very competently made with a tight script, fun practical effect gore and engaging set piece after set piece. But it’s also keenly aware that it’s Cocaine Bear, and it thrives on this knowledge.

My friends and I went to see Cocaine Bear, largely as a joke, in our minds the movie just seemed too ridiculous to pass up. But when we left the movie, not only were we met with one of the best comedy/thriller movies we’ve ever seen, but with the most enjoyable theater experience in awhile.

The room was lively with laughter, yells and engagement with the movie, and none of it was out of place. The movie invited the audience to engage with the silly premise, and the audience listened. Everyone was smiling and laughing, and by the time it was over I felt better after the movie than I did before. This is when it hit me that this is what cinema has been missing: movies that want you to have fun at them. Movies that aren’t afraid of coming off as over the top or ridiculous—movies that are lowbrow. 

The value of a lowbrow movie is the experience of getting to watch something fun. There’s value in giving up on constantly searching for that next installment in a franchise or the next art house masterpiece and just going to see something fun. So the next time you go to the movies, consider that B-list schlock you would’ve written off before. You can always watch a good movie at home, but why not spend the night watching a fun movie instead?