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Bizarre Characters Put the Fizz in 'Coca-Cola'


"The Coca-Cola Kid" is definitely the cinematic pause that refreshes.

The film is a whimsical and delightful romp through Australia that trumpets a clearly anti-capitalist message but still manages to have fun and not take itself too seriously.

The scenes and bizarre characters in the Dusan Makavejev-directed movie whiz by, and before you appreciate their humor, you're presented with other off-the-wall sights: a bandaged kangaroo by the roadside; a caravan of Coca-Cola trucks driven by Santa Clauses; a camel-riding bounty hunter; a raucous group of Aussie musicians singing a corporate jingle ("Don't Wanna Go Where There's No Coca-Colaaaaaaa. . . .").

In this 1985 comedy, Becker, an ambitious American soft-drink executive played by Eric Roberts, arrives in Australia to spread the good will and influence of Coca-Cola. Becker struts around the Coca-Cola offices in Sydney, telling how the Ah-mericun way of doing things is best. He's an evangelist for the soft drink, equating it with all that is good in civilization.

But he finds that T. George McDowell, an independent and eccentric cola manufacturer played by Bill Kerr, has carved out his own sphere of influence somewhere in the Anderson Valley. There, T. George operates a steam-powered factory staffed by roly-poly workers who roll wooden barrels around and transport cases of soft drinks in quaint little trucks. Clearly, when the red Coca-Cola trucks roll into Anderson Valley, the high-tech age meets the old world.

But despite Becker's marketing fervor and charm, T. George resists attempts to make him a Coca-Cola distributor, and a test of wills ensues.

Roberts is the capitalist who eventually turns nice guy, and the lovely Greta Scacchi (last seen in "Presumed Innocent") is Terri, the secretary from hell in romantic pursuit of him.

During a fight between Terri and her drunken ex-husband, Becker is caught in the middle and becomes a bull's-eye for a dish-throwing Terri. Bleeding, Becker is reduced to standing in a rain-drenched street with the ex. "I am not having any fun," he whines to himself.

As Becker's cutthroat veneer washes away with the rain, he begins the gradual transformation to human being.

There are some dark moments, such as director's Makavejev's ominous epilogue about World War III and Becker's manipulation of people. But it's a good-natured story, full of charming characters and serendipitous situations.

"The Coca-Cola Kid" (1985), directed by Dusan Makavejev. 94 minutes. Rated R.

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