Hey "Flakes," 1994 called: they want their unshaved, American Spirit-smoking statement on individual artistic potential struggling to survive in a corporate world back.
Trying to avoid paying attention to his fledgling music career, Neal (Aaron Stanford, "X2") passes his time managing Flakes, a grungy cereal bar that caters to those with nostalgic tastes for age-old breakfast treats. The employment confounds girlfriend Pussy Katz (Zooey Deschanel), who wants Neal to complete his long-awaited CD and start his life. When a new, Starbucks-like cereal shop opens for business across the street, the gang at Flakes panics, setting off a passive-aggressive war between the shops. Things go from bad to worse when Pussy Katz, in an effort to shake Neal free of his ennui, decides to work for the competitor, leaving the dismayed musician lost without her.
"Flakes" is a quaint motion picture stuck between earnest intentions and unremarkable execution. A member of the InDigEnt (Independent Digital Entertainment) production family, "Flakes" doesn't have the gimmick of being experimental or groundbreaking. The film just wants to tell a miniature story in a very miniature way, hoping to stir up some magic by remaining atypically calm and personable, while basking in the stained glow of the plentiful New Orleans locations.
Directed by Michael Lehmann ("Because I Said So," "40 Days and 40 Nights"), "Flakes" somehow is robbed of any defining quality. It's not actually a comedy or much of a drama, preferring to hold an uneasy middle ground of tone that doesn't offer any opportunity for audience participation. It's a portrait of frayed slackerdom, but Lehmann can't snap the material out of that indecisive fog, preferring to stage the conflicts within with all the excitement of a neighborhood walk. The plot concerns the combustion of hipster munchers vs. corporate squares, which leaves the film wide open for something to happen, be it enchanting slapstick or a serious discussion about the preservation of individuality. Instead the film goes nowhere, staying modest to a point of complete immobilization.
While Lehmann searches for a pulse, the cast puts in a bravo effort to keep the film upbeat and agreeably askew, to match the wonderland locale of a self-righteous cereal shop. Stanford and Deschanel are trapped in cutesy struggling artist clichés, but they keep the roles human to the best of their abilities, fighting aggressively outrageous costume design and brittle character arcs to deliver pleasing performances.
However, the cast comes second to the production design, which places heavy emphasis on cereal box touchstones of the past, taking the viewer on a ride through a Saturday-morning heaven of past cavity-welcoming glory. It's almost more amusing to take in the multicolored time machine background jewels than to pay attention to the anemic story.
As previously mentioned, "Flakes" is a member of the InDigEnt movement of digital cinema, so it's tough to tell the visual quality of this DVD (anamorphic widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio) without stepping on the toes of the original cinematography. While the colors are lively and detail is pleasing, the sometimes smeary image and lack of decent black levels tend to weigh down the experience. Overall, the DVD does what it can with very little.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix gets a charge out of the film's plentiful soundtrack, with nice directional activity during live musical performances. Dialogue is presented clearly.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
Two Deleted Scenes (3:19) are small snippets of character anger, not major deletions.
And a Theatrical Trailer for "Flakes" has been included on this DVD.
"Flakes" is anti-establishment, uses cereal as a metaphor for the infantile behavior of men, and even takes a few shots at obsessive Ebay collectors. So why doesn't the picture grip more tightly or explore more succinctly? Blame it on Lehmann, who smothers the curiosity of the material in a lackluster effort to unearth a more mediocre speed that won't offend a soul. He's put a potentially charming film to sleep.
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