I was really hyped up about this film. I expected it to be ridiculously violent and full of bad puns and jokes about a bear being high. There was some of that but not nearly as much as I wanted. If you have read this site in the past you know I have a weakness for cheesy, violent movies. “Smokin’ Aces”, “Seven Psychopaths“, “Piranha 3D” and “Piranha 3DD” are good examples of the sort of nonsense I was looking for. It’s not that this did not deliver, it did, just not in spades like I was hoping. We get caught up in a couple of stories that are supposed to structure the film, but they are just not that interesting and I kept hoping the bear would do some more damage to more people and property.
A movie like this has to be self aware of how over the top it is. In the best sequences, you do get that sort of malicious nastiness that we come to this for. The opening sequence with the European tourists sets us up pretty well. They are a little too self involved, but their dialogue was fun. I’m all for naming a kid Texas, I think they would both love it and hate it. The old joke about not needing to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other person, gets tossed aside pretty quickly. The dismemberment image is just enough without going too far in the intro. The problem is, it takes a long time to get back to this sort of thing. Even though there is an amusing sequence with the plane that drops the cocaine, it turns quickly to some issues that ought to get out of the way a little quicker.
Kids in jeopardy is a trope that also undermines the story. We know that the film maker is not going to have nine year olds ripped to pieces in front of us. That would undermine the enjoyment of the bear attacks. The victims need to be idiots, scum, or something else we can enjoy seeing brought down. This is not a horror film but a thriller comedy. Now the drug smugglers, the muggers, the smug do-gooders, that’s the stuff we are looking for. So there should be more of that. The problem is that the national park setting is not as target rich an environment as the river locations in the Piranha movies. There is also no gratuitous nudity to enhance the cheesy nature of the movie. The closest we get to characters who fulfill that need for our voyeurism, is a middle age ranger and a nature crusade. That don’t work.
My favorite death moment in the film is not really a bear attack but an accidental moment by people who are so hyped up by fear that they act stupidly. The sequence at the ranger station and the ambulance is the high point of the bear mayhem, and it occurs halfway through the movie, and we need something a little stronger at the end. This is Ray Liotta’s last film and he put in some effort, especially in the section where he confronts the detective in the story. The problem is he never gets hyped up the way the other characters do about the bear, and it makes this part of the story feel too much like it is from another picture. Director Elizabeth Banks, makes the sequences with the bear work well enough, but the pacing of the rest of the story seems off and a little slow.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time with this but it is not the perfect realization of the high concept premise that I wanted. My standards may be low when it comes to a movie like this, but I need to be honest, some good laughs and disturbing deaths were not quite enough to make it a classic. If you are intrigued by the idea, and you understand the approach the story is taking to this, you too will have some enjoyment. You may not however feel a need to ever return to the film, and a movie with this sort of promise should always be re-watchable.