Flakes (2007)

After watching Flakes, it occurs to me that there’s not a whole lot to say, either positive or negative, about it. It exists, and that’s all well and good, but it does nothing particularly well but nothing badly enough to actually dislike it. You sit there, watch it, acknowledge that it’s playing, maybe laugh a few times, and then go about your day. It doesn’t get a second thought, for better or for worse.

We open by watching the day-to-day activities of one Neal (Aaron Stanford), who works as a manager at the local “cereal bar.” If you’re not sure what that is, you’re not alone. The film needs to explain it, because it’s one of those ideas that’s just so crazy, it just might be brilliant. People come to the store, order the type of cereal they want, and then sit in the restaurant and eat it. Could they do that at home? Of course, but as one character explains, they do it to be “cool.”

Neal is a musician, or is supposed to be, but has been working on his CD for the better part of two years. His girlfriend, “Pussy Katz” (Zooey Deschanel, whose character’s name is actually Rachel), has recently quit her job, which was selling self-made t-shirts at the local market. They two move in together, and she makes a suggestion: Take a week off from working at the cereal bar in order to finish that CD. He resists, either because (1) he doesn’t really want to finish the CD due to fear of success or failure, or (2) because he actually enjoys his daytime job more than making music. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both, but Flakes doesn’t care which one actually dominates his mind.

If the relationship conflict between the two doesn’t seem like enough yet, hold on, as it will become elevated in just a moment. A rip-off of this cereal bar, managed by an unassuming man (Keir O’Donnell), has just opened up across the street. Not wanting to deal with lawyers (for reasons unexplained and unexplored), Neal and his groupies begin in a war with the other restaurant. After their competitor opens slow, Neal’s girlfriend heads over to help it out, either because (1) she actually wants “Flakes,” the bar Neal manages, to shut down because it’ll convince Neal to finish his CD, or (2) because she’s really mad at Neal for not hiring her at “Flakes.” Again, I’m thinking it’s a bit of both, and once again, I’m putting in more thought than Flakes is.

For most of the time Flakes plays, we’re concerned with one of two battles: The warring restaurant factions, and the two people in our primary relationship. Throw in a couple of colorful characters, like “Flakes” owner, Willie (Christopher Lloyd), and you’ve got the makings of something easily watchable. Our leads are all likable, there isn’t a single character to really dislike, and there seems to be a quiet charm about the production.

Unfortunately, after the breakfast bar battle begins, my interest started to wane. What starts out with an interesting idea quickly becomes cliché and unoriginal, filled with characters you just want to smack because of how simple their problems are. The charm was gone almost immediately, and before you know it, you’re wishing you chose to watch something else. At least, that’s the experience I had with it. There’s nothing to keep you wanting to see what happens next.

What Flakes misses is something to make it stand out, or at least something that the audience can identify with. It doesn’t really contain a lot of drama, and it doesn’t have many comedic moments, leaving me wondering what exactly it wanted to do. If it wanted to make me care about these people, it didn’t do a very good job. If it wanted to make me laugh, it did an even worse job. It tells a weak story, poor dialogue, only adequate acting, and doesn’t seem to have a purpose. It’s a film that exists for the sole purpose of existing.

There’s nothing that’s really wrong with it, either, which makes it hard to talk about. While its story isn’t interesting, it has moments of creativity and its heart is in the right place. It does have a few comedic moments, even though some of the jokes fell flat. And, like I said, the acting is adequate. Some of it’s above-average, while some is below. If you’re in the right mood — for instance, if you want to watch hipsters figuring out what to do with their hipster lives — then you might actually enjoy Flakes. It’s not like it’s a bad movie; it’s just an uninspired one, which is funny when you think about its main character.

There’s nothing much to say about Flakes. It isn’t good enough to be worth your time, but it’s also not bad enough to be worth taking the time to criticize. It exists in a sort of film limbo, where only the most uninteresting movies go. The “Should I see it?” answer is “no,” even if you happen to be the world’s biggest Zooey Deschanel fan (along with the other 1 million of you guys). It has funny moments, but overall isn’t a comedy, and the story it tells isn’t a poorly created one, but it also doesn’t work as an effective drama. It’s almost strange enough that it’s worth watching, but I would be sentencing you to 80 minutes of boredom if I were to recommend it.

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