1985 (June 28, 2022)
Cinecom International/Film Gallery (Fun City Editions/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/program category: B
- Video Note: A-
- Audio quality: B+
- Additional Rank: B+
The Coca-Cola Kid was a really weird brew in 1985. It was directed by nonconformist Yugoslav filmmaker Dusan Makavejev, starring the equally nonconformist American actor Eric Roberts, based on stories by Australian author Frank Moorhouse, with all tied together by an improbably unauthorized appearance of Coca-Cola and all of its trademarks. The film was produced without the involvement of the Coca-Cola Company, for obvious reasons, but to their credit they did not take any legal action against it. To cover up, rather than using the typical disclaimer at the end of the credits, The Coca-Cola Kid put his own disclaimer front and center, brazenly using that trademark logo as many times as possible, while acknowledging that it was a trademark. Amazingly, Coke dropped everything.
The scenario of The Coca-Cola Kid was from Moorhouse, based on his short stories from Americans, baby and The electric experience. (Watch for a joke with Roberts reading a copy of the old one.) Becker (Roberts) is a young Coca-Cola executive who’s been sent to the Australian division to shake things up his way and help their sales. growing up. He immediately comes into conflict with Terri (Greta Scacchi), a secretary who has been assigned to be his assistant, and then into an even bigger conflict with T. George McDowell (Bill Kerr), the owner of a regional soft drink company. which refuses to allow competitors to enter its territory. Becker tries his best to find a way around T. George, but when an irresistible force meets a stationary object, something has to give.
The Coca-Cola Kid is a study of cultural clashes, on both sides of the camera: American versus Australian versus Yugoslav; international companies vs regional family companies; modern technology versus old-fashioned methodology; and independent cinema versus the classic Hollywood form. The latter is particularly interesting, because despite the satirical elements exposed, The Coca-Cola Kid is essentially a goofy comedy (although with slightly less frenetic beats). Terri borders on being a maniacal pixie dream girl at times, but she’s still the catalyst that drives Becker’s journey, and she’s been given a bit more depth here than the trope usually provides. Scacchi is still as appealing as ever, and she’s well balanced by Roberts, who was doing Matthew McConaughey years before McConaughey was doing McConaughey. Kerr makes a great foil for both, but it’s child actor Rebecca Smart who steals every scene as the Scacchi DMZ girl. She is one of the few people in the film who can easily put Roberts in his place.
The Coca-Cola Kid carries a vaguely anti-capitalist theme, but it tends to get lost a bit with the sometimes slapstick antics on display. Becker eventually changes his own value system, but the film doesn’t let things go so easily and ends with the following title card:
“A week later… As the cherries were blooming in Japan, the next world war began.
Do whatever you want with it.
Cinematographer Dean Semler shot The Coca-Cola Kid on 35mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras with spherical lenses, framed at 1.85 for its theatrical release. Fun City Editions describes the transfer as featuring a “new 2K restoration from its 35mm interpositive”. The grain is quite heavy, especially seen in projection. The image is detailed, within this grain structure, and there is no significant damage to report. Contrast range is strong, although detail is lacking in the darker areas of the screen. Colors look natural, with the distinctive Coca-Cola red appearing quite vivid, and skin tones look accurate. The only real issue is that graininess, and while that might sound heretical, it’s a case where perhaps a judiciously tricky dab of DNR wouldn’t have hurt – the graininess on the output prints would have been a bit sweeter than that. Your mileage may vary, however, depending on the size of your screen.
Audio is offered in English 2.0 LPCM, with optional English subtitles. The Coca-Cola Kid was theatrically released in Dolby Stereo, so it’s a four-channel mix mastered into two. The surroundings are quite active, filled with the sounds of planes, helicopters, wildlife, factory noises, etc. The dialogue is clear, and the score by William Motzing and the songs by Tim Finn carry real weight, with a decent amount of low-end extension as well. (Fair warning: Finn’s Australian Coke jingle may sound like an earworm.) It’s a fine example of an ’80s surround mix, and it proves that even goofy comedy can benefit from immersive sound design.
The Blu-ray release of Fun City Editions from The Coca-Cola Kid includes a reversible insert with new artwork on one side and the original theatrical work on the reverse, plus a 12-page booklet with an essay by Spike Carter. There is also an embossed and glossy cover available direct from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 3,000 units, designed by We Bury Your Kids. The following extras are included:
- Audio commentary by Lars Nilsen and Jonathan Hertzberg
- Dark and sparkling (HD – 11:07)
- the real thing (HD scaled – 32:16)
- Theatrical trailer (HD scaled – 2:36)
- Image Gallery (HD-:37)
The commentary track features Lars Nilsen, film programmer for the Austin Film Society, and Jonathan Hertzberg of Fun City Editions. (There are also a few cameo recordings near the end featuring former Cinecom Pictures executive Ira Deutschman talking about their cast of the film, as well as its critical reception.) They also discuss contributions from Moorhouse, Makavejev , Roberts and Scacchi. as analyzing the themes of imperialism in The Coca-Cola Kid. They note the story’s parallels with that of Bill Forsythe local hero, and give production details. (They agree that the jingle is an earworm, and Hertzberg didn’t help that situation by featuring it on the disc menus!) They end with an interesting conversation regarding the current state of physical media, and why Fun City Editions releases movies like this. . (Note that there is a single gap in the commentary that makes it look like MGM’s legal department may have deleted a section.)
Dark and Bubly is a recently recorded interview with Eric Roberts, which explains how to play intense characters like Paul Snider in Star 80 impacted people’s perception of him, and so The Coca-Cola Kid was a kind of vacation for him. He also gives his impressions of Makavejev, Scacchi and Semler, as well as his thoughts on being an American in Australia. the real thing is an archival featurette – originally produced for Umbrella Entertainment’s 2009 DVD release – that combines separate interviews with Greta Scacchi and producer David Roe. Roe explains how the project came to fruition, the casting process and the creation of the Coca-Cola jingle. Scacchi shares his personal experiences making the film, not all of them positive. (Her apparent enthusiasm during the love scene is proof that she really is a good actress, as it was an unpleasant experience for her.) Her fondest memory from the production is when she kicked off her relationship from six years. with Tim Finn.
The Coca-Cola Kid never found an audience in 1985, as it was too quirky for mainstream success, but not quirky enough to become a major cult film. Yet he still has a small but devoted following to this day. Like most movies, it’s best experienced while keeping expectations under control and letting its offbeat beats speak for themselves. The Coca-Cola Kid has long been a high definition staple, so this Fun City Editions Blu-ray is a welcome addition to their catalog.
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