The Coca-Cola Kid (1985 USA)

YooniqImages_102407030  Ooh you handsome devil! Julia, eat your heart out.

(This review is in no way sponsored by Coca Cola or the Coca Cola bottling company) Now that’s out of the way… Strewth! Gidday mate and put another shrimp on the barbie etc. This is the ugly face of American Imperialism. When company trouble-shooter Becker (Eric Roberts) declares, “The world will not be truly free until Coke is available everywhere,” he’s speaking without irony. We have been warned. This story is about Becker’s attempts to help Coca-Cola colonize Australia, 198os – style.

Becker arrives in Australia to help boost lagging sales. It turns out that there’s a whole region of the country where no Coke is sold at all. (I know, shocking news) Then our gung-ho Yankee hero discovers that that region is ruled over by T. George McDowell (Bill Kerr) a gruff man of homespun wisdom, but more importantly, homemade soft drinks, made from real fruit. Even though their first encounter is rough, Becker is determined to fight off the advances of his secretary-with-a-secret (Greta Scacchi) and the hotel waiter who mistakes him for an arms dealer to do the job he was sent to do.

Directed by the off-the-wall Dusan Makavejev, The Coca-Cola Kid develops a wonderful momentum early on. In fact, the first hour of the film is an absolute gem. Eric Roberts’s performance to that point is perfectly enigmatic yet sympathetic. His presentation to the bemused Coke officials is comic gold, as he waxes poetic about the fizzy beverage, even holding it up to the light bathing the room in its brown glow. Roberts’s early scenes with Scacchi have a nice screwball touch and his interactions with Scacchi’s moppet daughter provide a nice depth for the character, hinting at something beyond his intensity.

scacchi-cocacola-n-5 (2)For reasons completely unclear to me, about half way through the movie,  the secretary has Becker invited to a party to catch him in an awkward position. This involves completely random intimations of homosexuality and ends of feeling both forced and pointless. The scene is so clumsy that it leaves a bad taste that begins to spread. It rapidly becomes clear that The Coca-Cola Kid isn’t going to omit a single convention of Australian culture. You want an old Bushman with a didgeridoo? You’ve got it. An adorable wounded Kangaroo? Bingo! And a slightly inbred man singing a rousing chorus of “Waltzing Matilda?” You got it.

In fact, the vision of Australia put forth by the film is so lacking in anything distinctively uplifting that it’s hard to feel bad about the culture being overrun by American interests. You support Coke because you figure they’re at least putting forth a product that is bright and sparkly, does what it brags about and has a proven track record of global success. (Can’t believe I just typed those words. Sorry cobbers)

There are plot holes big enough to drive a Merkava tank through and the whole film undertakes annoying changes in tone from time to time. There is some good stuff here though and it certainly earns the tag “original” but I cannot in all good conscience give this heroic failure an A. Maybe for effort but this is more of a C+ as a finished product. That’s enough drivel from me to be going on with. Just enjoy the sizzling Greta Scacchi in all her natural glory! But what the hell a child is doing in such scenes is beyond me. Some parents!

Scacchi Greta_Coca Cola Kid_2_640_368

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