Flakes is great news for anyone you know who digs L7, but bad news if you don’t like your pseudo-indie comedy peppered with thin attempts at humor, a rather vague setting and Christopher Lloyd proving that, should Futurama ever make the leap to live-action, he would make the perfect Professor Farnsworth. Since the chances are zilch of that happening—thankfully—let’s get back to the painfully hip film at hand.
Neal Downs (Aaron Stanford) works at the titular café whose sign reads that it only sells cereal—tons of the stuff ranging from Count Chocula to out-of-production boxes from the 70s—to the point that Neal squeals with glee when his nerdy, eBay trolling supplier Bruce (Frank Wood) manages to sell a box of Freakies for $30. Then there’s Willie (Lloyd), the manager/“crazy old man in his pajamas” who speaks in cereal trivia for nearly twenty minutes before you lose track of what’s going on and think about how this must be an alternate future in which Doc Brown got tragically stuck.
Miss Pussy Katz (Zooey Deschanel) is Neal’s quirky, alterna-girlfriend who makes her own clothes and plans to become a legendary artist, but thinks her boyfriend is stuck in his dead-end job. And he is—incredibly comfortably, one might add. Of course, the drama comes when yuppie Stuart (Keir O’Donnell) comes in, attempts to seduce Neal into the world of franchises, and—upon being spurned by Neal’s self-righteous, anti-corporate nature—breaks ground on his own cleaner, better lit New Original Flakes store across the street.
This has been building up for nearly a half hour, all to (wait… wait for it—) present a satirical analogy for Starbucks™. This may not be surprising coming from director Michael Lehmann, who has dealt with social oddities in high school (Heathers) and even managed to show the world that people who are different sizes CAN get along, goddamn it (My Giant). Never mind that New Orleans provides the backdrop, a fact only brought up in two or three instances. Sure, you have your montage sequences taking place in the streets when Neal hands out fliers to promote a devious practical joke and earlier we find Miss P. Katz driving her over-sized tricycle through the French Quarter—but that’s it. Flakes could have been dropped anywhere with a recognizable skyline.
Writers Karey Kirkpatrick and Chris Poche throw some decent one-liners into the mix: when Pussy finishes moving into Neal’s apartment she states, “There. All shacked up like dirty Catholics in sin.” Kirkpatrick especially seems desperate to show people he can do more than write Charlotte’s Web, Over The Hedge and The Little Vampire, as when Neal mutters “It’s so VH1” while considering a commercialized Flakes—sadly, he’s doing so years after such remarks are relevant. Worse, they can be like a hammer: after an extravagant dinner-turned-disaster, Neal is left heaving in the streets because of “all that meat, and butter and shit.” Pussy mutters in that Deschanelian monotone, “That’s because all you eat is cereal. It’s not healthy. It’s not even food! Grow up, Neal! Grow up!”
Or don’t. Whatever, dude!
John Lichman is a freelance writer who contributes to The Reeler, Primetime A&E [print only] and anyone with cash. He works odd jobs to afford his vices, sleeps on couches and can drink Vadim Rizov under a table.