Blu-ray Review: The Coca-Cola Kid [Fun City Editions] | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, August 7th, 2022  

The Coca-Cola Kid

Studio: Fun City Editions

May 31, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In the back half of The Coca-Cola Kid (1985), audiences are treated to a bizarrely funny seduction scene. After hiding out in his hotel room for an indeterminate amount of time, comely Terri (The Player’s Greta Scacchi) catches the American soda marketer, Becker (Eric Roberts), off guard. Still dressed in a Santa Claus suit complete with beard, overcoat, and pillow-stuffed gut, she suggests they finally get sex out of the way once and for all so that they can focus on other matters—an idea she’d been pushing on him since her very first lines in the movie. Livid over this latest, egregious intrusion into his personal affairs, he commands her to put on her boots and leave. Terri slides on one humongous, rubber Santa boot… and seductively removes the other. He repeats his order, and again she responds with one shoe on, the other off. This happens again, and again…

The moment is as visually absurd as it is childish and humorous. This Christmas-themed foreplay devolves into a full-blown sex scene—with goose feathers, explosively ripped from the Santa suit’s tummy-pillow, gently fluttering down onto their bodies. The fact that it’s only mildly jarring when that happens can be chalked up to the way the movie skidded gleefully and recklessly in tone and subject matter for the 90-ish minutes that preceded it.

This begins to make sense when you remind yourself that the movie was directed by the anarchic Serbian filmmaker Dušan Makavejev, known for his domestically-banned Cannes darling W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) and the notoriously naughty slice of surrealism, Sweet Movie (1974). Unlike those earlier, sociopolitically-charged features, The Coca-Cola Kid isn’t obviously presented as avant-garde: it was produced with mainstream aspirations, a real budget, and one of Hollywood’s rising stars. Like David Lynch’s Dune (1984), this feels like a case of a project being handed over with good intentions to a buzzy auteur, who used the opportunity to create something fascinating and within their style—much to the detriment of the film’s commercial and critical prospects.

In Makavejev’s hands, The Coca-Cola Kid feels like the darkest soda commercial you’ll ever see.

The Coca-Cola Kid opens with a lengthy disclaimer that the film is, in fact, a work of fiction, and not based on any actual events – Coca-Cola were clearly concerned that viewers might actually think they’d driven an independent soda entrepreneur to self-immolation. As sternly as that on-screen text reads, it’s essentially a blanket endorsement from the cola giant for what comes afterward, which is really, really weird when you think about it.

Set in the offices of Australia’s main Coke bottling branch in Sydney, the film follows American marketing guru Becker (Roberts), who’s sent to double their sales through whatever means necessary. An eccentric ex-Marine, Becker’s dedication to his Cola cause is like that of a religious fanatic; he views the soda as America’s goodwill ambassador to the world, and an extension of his country’s greatest virtues. He’s comically blind to everything that doesn’t revolve around pimping Coke. When he encounters resistance in the form of a grizzled, old factory owner who’s been producing his own sugary drinks since the dawn of time—and represents the last bastion of modern civilization who seemingly haven’t surrendered to corporate cola—Becker’s single-minded brain can barely comprehend what’s happening. A Cold War-like showdown of conflicting ideals erupts between these two stubborn powerhouses.

Meanwhile, Becker must repeatedly dodge the lovely secretary who keeps throwing herself at him; set straight an odd hotelier who believes he’s a secret emissary of the CIA; and try to cook up a Coke jingle that encapsulates the “Australian sound,” even though it seems like he couldn’t care less what the “Australian sound” might be. (The song, written and performed by Split Enz’ Tim Finn, is a pervasive earworm.) All of this is much more surreal on film than it reads on paper. The film’s many odd-fitting elements feel precariously taped together at times, but it’s hard to imagine someone not wanting to stick it through to the end just to see where it all goes.

The Coca-Cola Kid is a movie that doesn’t entirely work, but is weirdly enthralling—and thankfully, many of the contextual materials included on Fun City Editions’ new Blu-ray offer suggestions as to where its exact missteps might lie. New to this disc are a commentary by longtime Weird Wednesday curator Lars Nilsen and FCE founder Jonathan Hertzberg and a video interview with Eric Roberts, who has lots of fond things to say about his experiences making the movie. (Roberts was on an incredible tear when he made this one—his other leading roles from ’83-’85 included Star 80, The Pope of Greenwich Village, and Runaway Train.) Also included is an older featurette from an earlier home video release, built around interviews with co-star Greta Scacchi and David Roe, whose memories are a bit less rose-tinted but provide some good insight into the production and some of the issues that arose during it.



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