Becker (Eric Roberts) is a troubleshooter working for the Coca-Cola company whose reputation precedes him, as he has grown renowned as one of the best salesmen for the American soft drinks giant, able to increase sales even where they seem to be healthy. With that in mind, his bosses have sent him to Australia, Sydney to be precise, where the country's Coca-Cola head office resides, though the boss there is surprised to see him until the Telex arrives about a minute after Becker does. The distributors here might not see a problem, but he will find one sooner or later, and find one he does when one region of the continent appears to be sparsely populated with Coke drinkers...
The Coca-Cola Kid was Dusan Makavejev's follow-up to his cult hit Montenegro during the last decade he was turning out films with any kind of regularity. He had by this stage won a reputation as a director who liked to rock the boat, pushing at censorship and taboos, though in this case he appeared to have mellowed: no toy tank games here, that was for sure. In this case he worked with esteemed Australian writer Frank Moorhouse to adapt some of his work which could have been regarded as pointedly political with globalism well and truly looming over the world of capitalism, yet there was an unmistakable distance fostered between the events unfolding on the screen and who we in the audience were asked to respond to.
A lot of that could well have been down to the poor relations on the set as this production became semi-notorious for the way everyone apparently fell out while making it: Greta Scacchi, on her way to becoming a sex symbol for the eighties, though whether that was what she really wanted was debatable, made no secret of how miserable she was during the shoot, describing the three days spent making the sex scene with Roberts as "worse than prostitution" which tends to put a damper on how enjoyable the whole movie can be. That said, plenty of films that weren't much fun to create have gone on to be very well thought of, so it's not necessarily enough to sabotage the artistic content or entertainment value of the final result, if you knew about it.
Mind you, that strange dislocation between the scenes and the actors did speak to a certain lack of chemistry, never mind an animosity, and this is a difficult work to embrace when the whole thing just seems a bit off. If you could put that to the back of your mind, you might well appreciate The Coca-Cola Kid as its cultists have done, and indeed the Coca-Cola company did when they discovered it was being made; you'll note the lengthy legal disclaimer at the beginning to make sure we knew the giant corporation was not endorsing this product in case we thought their employees actually did behave like the capitalist machine-a-like Becker does for most of this story. What appeared to have been in the makers' minds was an Ealing-esque comedy where the little guy employs a charm offensive on the monolith of an organisation.
What you got was rather less focused, and considerably less funny, but it had an allure, mainly thanks to Scacchi's portrayal of the kooky secretary who falls for and tries to seduce the straightlaced Becker, all the while keeping her connection to his business headache secret. That headache is McDonnell (Tony Hancock's radio sidekick Bill Kerr, here considerably more aggressive) who has his own small industry which dominates a region of Australia where nobody wants to know about Coca-Cola, they're quite happy with their local brand, as with Star Cola in Middle Eastern countries or the legendary Irn Bru in Scotland. Therefore Becker's mission is to buy out McDonnell and win his customers over to Coke, which you can tell is never going to happen by the rules of David and Goliath movie plotting. Or does it? The ending goes off in a curious direction where good sense flies out of the window (that caption before the credits is very eighties), so vague in its point-scoring that it seems Makavejev's experimental side was dominating. Music by William Motzing (jingle by Tim Finn).
Experimental, satirical Yugoslavian writer-director, who got international attention with The Switchboard Operator, the Wilhelm Reich-inspired W.R. Mysteries of the Organism, the unpleasant Sweet Movie, the odd Montenegro and (for him) the rather tame Coca-Cola Kid. Went on to teach at Harvard University.