The Coca-Cola Kid (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

The premise of the film is fairly interesting. Coca-Cola's intensive market analysis shows that there is an area in Australia where no Coke is sold, so they send their top marketing troubleshooter to solve the problem for the local affiliate. The reason for the Coke-out in the area is that the local soft drink market is controlled by an eccentric local bottler who still brews perishable soft drinks made from natural ingredients grown locally. Between his orchards and his plants, he employs much of the local workforce, and he has only a minimal interest in profit, so he keeps his wages high, his prices low, and his product quality superlative.

Now that's a challenge even for mighty Coke. How can you compete profitably with a guy who basically wants to run his business like a commune, and is completely beloved by everyone in the market. Well, I guess you make him an offer he can't refuse, and you hope that you don't tick him off in the process.


see the main commentary.

The film has an enjoyable comedic set-up phase (I love the section where they write the new marketing jingle for Australia), but it is spoiled by a second act of Australian outback cliches (pet kangaroos, old men playing didgeridoos, half-wits singing Waltzing Matilda, the usual suspects). Then it is destroyed by a half-hearted last act which is almost completely humorless. The lead role was filled with some truly bizarre casting - Eric Roberts as a boy genius marketing executive, who also happened to be an ex-marine with bleach-blond hair. Odd stuff. This might have worked out if they had let Roberts play a guy with lots of raw, unpolished street-smarts, but instead they had him speak and dress like the Ivy Leaguer the part was written for. It worked out about as well as it would if they made Robert Blake the next James Bond. Eric may be a genius for all I know, but he is not capable of playing a man of great intellect and education. He talks like a retarded thug, and he's not really a versatile enough actor to be capable of talking any other way.

Do you buy into Eric as a sales analyst? Frankly, I wouldn't buy anything from Eric, except maybe one of those sex chairs from Star 80. The whole film is sort of tinged with a false anticipation, the feeling that they are going to reveal that Eric killed the real marketing guy and is taking his place in order to flee to Australia.

But, no, he was really the marketing guy. Creepy. I doubt if Eric could even get in the building in Atlanta! Too bad, because this film could have been a lot better with Pierce Brosnan or somebody like that who would have been believable in the part. Actually, the part was miswritten as well. Coke guys aren't stuffed shirts who insist on silly and punctilious office protocol. In my international dealings with them, I always found them brilliant and well-prepared, but their corporate culture is down-to-earth.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, and a full-screen version

  • no meaningful features

As for the nudity, the DVD is a major disappointment. Greta Scacchi is stark naked in two scenes, showing all possible body parts. Unfortunately,

1. As she bathes her little daughter, this scene is almost impossible to see. It is foggy, dark, and indistinct. I'm guessing it has been deliberately blurred and darkened because of the child nudity. On the DVD, the scene is filled with interference.

2. She has sex with Roberts. This is a sexy and fairly funny scene, but is very dark.

Tuna's Thoughts

The Coca-Cola Kid (1985) is an off-beat romantic comedy "as Australian as a chicken wire canoe, as Australian as a shot sandwich." It stars Eric Roberts as a super marketing troubleshooter from the corporate offices in Hotlanta, International division. Australian management is told to not try to understand him, not let him piss them off, and to listen to him, as his visits always result in higher sales. He is assigned a zany secretary played by Greta Scacchi for the duration of his visit, which is to be one month. True to his reputation, he finds an entire region, Anderson Valley, which does not carry Coca-Cola. Turns out there is a good reason. Anderson Valley is virtually owned by T. George McDowell, who owns and operates a soft drink company. He uses methods and equipment that date back to the 20's, squeezes his own juice to make his nine flavors, uses more carbonation than more commercial products -- in short, he makes a superior product. He also settles for low profits ("we are in the black"), and treats his workers well.

Scacchi, of course, turns out to be the long estranged daughter of McDowell. The film is a complete farce, and was never meant to show anything about real International marketing, but rather invents conflicts based on that premise to bring together a collection of eccentric and colorful characters. Some of the films moments were side-splitting, such as when McDowell shows up in the Australian corporate offices to negotiate a reciprocal distribution agreement with dancing girls and a portable soda fountain in tow, and a sky writer further emphasizing his message. The inevitable love scene between Scacchi and Roberts is also played for maximum humor, with feathers from a Santa Suit (don't ask) everywhere, and McDowell walking in on them.

Scacchi is very naked from all angles in a long but steamed up shower scene with her daughter, and also shows all three Bs in bed with Roberts in a dark scene. The film was nominated for 7 technical awards in Australia, but won none of them. Ebert, like me, enjoyed it and awarded 3 stars, while admitting that the second half of the film was not as good as the first. If you enjoyed the Streisand slapstick comedies like For Pete's Sake, The Owl and the Pussycat, and What's Up Doc, you will probably also enjoy this one. On the other hand, if you dislike quirky romantic comedies with broad humor, this one won't win you over. C.


The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, 3/5

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C (both reviewers). Cute, average little romantic comedy about the big marketing machine versus the eccentric local entrepreneur. Nice photography of Australia. Strange casting.

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