The Jewish connection to the “Cocaine Bear” + more


Image courtesy Universal Pictures

Nate Bloom , Special to the Jewish Light

Cocaine Bear,” a black comedy-thriller based on a true story, opened in theaters on Feb. 24. In 1985, a pilot working for drug dealers dumped tons of cocaine over a Georgia forest. Later, a forest bear was found dead. It had eaten about 75 pounds of cocaine. The bear in the real-life story didn’t scare or hurt anyone. In the new film, the bear goes on a murderous rampage.

ALDEN EHRENREICH, 33, has a co-starring role. He was “discovered” (about age 13) when STEVEN SPIELBERG watched–at a bat mitzvah–a short comedy film that Ehrenreich made. Overall, his career has been somewhat unlucky. Two “big” films he starred-in, which were supposed to be big hits, flopped (“Beautiful Creatures” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”)

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The only hit film he’s been in is “Hail, Caesar!” (2019), another black comedy. Ehrenreich turned in a good performance in this COEN brothers’ film.


“The Reluctant Traveler,” an eight-part globe-trotting series, premiered on Apple+ on Sunday, Feb. 26. EUGENE LEVY, 75, is the host. The show’s publicity says “we follow Levy as he visits some of the world’s most beautiful destinations in Costa Rica, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Maldives, Portugal, South Africa, and the U.S.A.”

Levy was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. Few know that his father was of Sephardi ancestry (Bulgaria). His mother was born and raised in Scotland, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants.

Levy became well-known for his roles on “SCTV,” a Canadian/American sketch comedy (1976-84). His fame exploded when he co-starred as a Jewish dad in the mega-hit teen comedy “American Pie” (1999). In 2015, he co-created “Schitt’s Creek,” his biggest hit with his son, DANIEL LEVY, 39. This Canadian TV series found a worldwide following on Netflix when the streaming service began airing it in 2017. In 2020, Eugene Levy, who was a “Schitt’s” co-star, won the Emmy for best lead performance in a comedy.

Do watch “Waiting for Guffman,” a 1996 mockumentary co-written by Eugene Levy that got great reviews. He plays a Jewish dentist in a small Missouri town who wants to entertain people. Another Canadian, LINDA KASH, now 62, is perfect as his Jewish wife. It is now streaming on HBO Max. Trust me, you’ll laugh.

In 2020, HBO released “Perry Mason,” a re-boot of the famous TV series. Unlike the original, which was set in the 1950s and ’60s, the new series was set in 1932, during the Great Depression. “The ’30s Mason” is a broke private investigator until (spoiler) he solves a big case. As the first season ended, Mason opted to go to law school with the aim of being a defense attorney.

As in the TV series, Hamilton Burger, an assistant district attorney, is a major character. JUSTIN KIRK, 53, who played Burger in the first season, will be even more prominent as the character in the second season (which begins on March 6 on HBO).

Kirk is the secular son of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. He’s best-known playing Andy Botwin, a (star) Jewish character on the long-running Showtime series “Weeds.”

MICHAEL BEGLER and JACK AMIEL, both 54, took over as the main producers of the show in the second season. They also wrote most of the second season scripts.

Also on March 6, there’s the premiere of the highly anticipated series “History of the World, Part II.” Every MEL BROOKS’ fan knows that the “Part I” was a hilarious 1981 film, directed and written by Brooks. Scenes included Moses (played by Brooks) bringing down the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai.

The 1981 film hinted that there would be a Part II. But Brooks always said that was a joke. Well, the 95-year-old Brooks was coaxed to co-write a sequel with David Stassen (not Jewish). The sequel (on Hulu) will be in the form of eight half-hour episodes. On Mar. 6, two episodes will be released. Two more episodes will be released each following day (March 7-9).

It is unclear if a hilarious scene in the trailer—“Jews in Space,” will be a series full skit.

As I write this, the cast list is incomplete. The Jewish members include PAMELA ADLON, 56; EVAN SHAFRAN, 40; IKE BARINHOLTZ, 45; NICK KROLL, 44; JACK BLACK, 53; SARAH SILVERMAN, 52; SETH ROGEN, 40 (as the biblical Noah); DAVID DUCHOVNY, 62; DAVID WAIN, 53; JOSH GAD, 41; EMILY RATAJKOWSKI, 31; and JAKE JOHNSON, 40.

All of the persons above have/had two Jewish parents, except those noted here: Johnson and Duchovny are the secular sons of Jewish fathers and Ratajkowski has a Jewish mother. Actor/director Taiki Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) is also a cast member. He had one Jewish grandparent and identifies as “Jewish/Polynesian.”)