Flakes is a neighborhood breakfast fantasy -- a funky, retro shop dedicated to cereal. You walk in, pick your crunch of choice, and are instantly served a bowl of cereal that you can enjoy with the quirky members of your community. But it's not all Corn Flakes and Cheerios -- there's a large wall of selections from the new to the old, discontinued, and hard-to-find varieties. It's history in a bowl, served without the capitalist cleanliness.
In a film, there's a number of ways this can play out that could make for a memorable and lovable indie experience. However, while Flakes mixes the worlds of High Fidelity, Reality Bites, Clerks, and Empire Records, it does so without the verve and life that made each of those lovable classics. The film starts out well enough. With a very distinct '90s feel, you're introduced to the cerealific world of Flakes. It's a store with walls covered in cereal boxes and memorabilia, where owner Willie (Christopher Lloyd) walks around in his pajamas like a crazy man and Neal Downs (Tadpole's Aaron Stanford) keeps things running. It seems like a recipe for success. But the film falls flat, offering a cliched story rather than the charming flair that the quirky basis requires.
Basically, Flakes is challenged by a new Flakes, opened right across the street in New Orleans and run by a capitalism-loving young man (Keir O'Donnell). The copy-cat wouldn't have a shot at success if not for Neal's personal struggles with his girlfriend, Miss Pussy Katz (Zooey Deschanel). She wants him to take time off to work on his music, and is upset that he spends more time at Flakes than on his own personal growth. In retaliation to his commitment to Flakes, she heads to the competition and turns it into a successful business. From there Neal must fight for his relationship, as well as the store.
Imagine High Fidelity without the humor, the anti-capitalist stance of Reality Bites without the charm, Clerks without the wonderful conversation, and Empire Records without the highly quotable lines -- and all of them without the music. It's rebellion jerkiness without the glee that makes it an enjoyable experience. (I must also note: With a musician as a main character, music is all the more important.)
I could fault director Michael Lehman, but he has previously given us Heathers, Airheads, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, and even 40 Days and 40 Nights -- films that merge disenchantment with at least a steady amount of verve. I could fault the actors, who relay their performances adequately, but without passion. But I believe the problem lies in the script, which came from the pens of Chris Poche and Karey Kirkpatrick. The film has the outline down-pat, but it's missing those conversational flares, sweet moments, and musical ties that would have ripped this out of mediocrity and into something fun.
There's not much that can be said for the DVD features. There are two very brief deleted scenes, plus the theatrical trailer for the film. Perhaps this is for the best, as I'm not sure what could really be said about the feature that would fill up a large interview or a feature-length commentary.
All in all, Flakes isn't terrible. It has its moments, and it stars some great actors, but it's just lacking.