"THE COCA-COLA KID" is not the real thing. It's an un-movie. It claims to offer a new formula for comedy, but a lot of filmgoers will probably prefer the classic kind.
"The Kid" is an unstructured, anti-corporate lampoon, a bewildering variant of "Local Hero." Eric Roberts plays a troubleshooter for the Coke folks, sent from corporate headquarters in Atlanta to the branch office in Australia. His mission is to take over an unaffiliated soda bottler and convert the last holdouts in a world otherwise swigging carbonated syrup in perfect harmony.
Roberts looks like a cross between Ken the Doll and Richard Gere. He's an incredible amalgam of Americana -- a Harvard MBA who speaks in an outlandish southern accent and preaches Coke like an evangelical stumping for born-agains. His mother, who calls long distance, is definitely from Brooklyn. And those are only a few of the character's incongruities.
This patchwork parody is an Australian writer's view of an ugly American as interpreted by a Yugoslavian director. Their perception is clearly off, but it is interesting to see ourselves as others may see us. Askew.
Writer Frank Moorhouse, an oversensitive defender of Australia's national identity, cautions us against unrelenting homogeneity. Stop the multinational pop peddlers and save the fizz, he says. And he hasn't even heard about Coke clothes yet.
The man does have a point, but certainly rugged individualism is not served by his screwy screenplay. It does, however, make a convincing case for old-time virtues like linear plot development, clear transitions and solid research.
Director Dusan Makavejev, known for his disjunctive style, may be talented, visionary and all that, but he's on one weird wavelength. He does direct some exquisite moments -- in particular a shower scene with Greta Scacchi, an international knockout who tries to distract the Kid from his pursuit of the last uncola. But he resists, the fool.
All it does is make me yearn for a Yahoo.