With The Coca-Cola Kid, director Dusan Makavejev (Montenegro) has created an absurdist satire of the soft-drink empire that has conquered most of the globe. When Becker (Eric Roberts), an American troubleshooter for the company, arrives at the Australian headquarters, there is an amusing clash of national styles. The Australians are much more relaxed about their jobs than the energetic and ambitious American. Becker is somewhat enigmatic, an ex-marine whose emotional life is almost completely wrapped up in the company’s dictates. It is only when he discovers Anderson Valley, an area that Coke has never infiltrated, that he begins to display any enthusiasm for living. The Coca-Cola Kid is a shrewd, if meandering and inconclusive, portrait of a company man. Becker is besieged on all sides as he campaigns in Anderson Valley. His ravishingly beautiful secretary, Terri (Greta Scacchi), wages her own campaign to make him her lover. The owner of Anderson Valley’s old-fashioned soft-drink enterprise, T. George McDowell (Bill Kerr)—who also happens to be Terri’s estranged father—goes after Becker with a shotgun. Meanwhile, Terri’s daughter (Rebecca Smart), whose name is DMZ—short for Demilitarized Zone —delivers a number of adult commentaries on life and loving. DMZ is just one of many peripheral characters, including a waiter convinced that Becker is a CIA agent, who bear no relation whatsoever to the rest of the movie. For all its sidetracks and absurdist detail, The Coca-Cola Kid is sweetly humorous and well-crafted. There is an endearing, childlike quality to Becker, who makes a pet of a mouse he finds in his hotel room and helps an old woman to take her kangaroo, which has a broken paw, to a veterinarian. When Becker and Terri finally make love amid an explosion of down feathers, the result is dreamily erotic. But those vignettes fail to explain Becker’s personality. Roberts is a graceful, charismatic actor but his performance is mere embroidery on a character without substance. The movie is too soft-centred to have any emotional bite. Mildly diverting, The Coca-Cola Kid is hardly “the real thing.” -LAWRENCE O’TOOLE
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