Now that Zooey Deschanel is established in movies, has a music career and some television under her belt, it might be tough to remember that only a few years ago, she was working her way up the ladder, appearing in a lot of independent movies. We will be exploring ‘Flakes’ this week.

Neal Downs (Aaron Stanford) is a shiftless aspiring musician who works at Flakes, a bohemian cereal bar that caters to connoisseurs who can eat this breakfast food at any time of the day. Neal’s girlfriend, Pussy Katz (Deschanel) is constantly pushing him to get into the studio to record a demo so he can properly pursue his dream. The owner of Flakes, Willie (Christopher Lloyd) is probably too much of a hippie burnout to really notice if he took some time off while Pussy fills in for him.

Problems arise when a young businessman opens a copycat store across the street. This puts the original Flakes in some serious financial jeopardy and causes some strife within the store. Neal rejects Pussy’s offer to help, so out of spite, she goes to work for the competition.

Will might make right in the business world (as it so often does)? Will Neal get his act together and actually produce some music? Will his relationship with Pussy survive?

For a couple that are at odds as often as they are in this movie, it rarely seems as if their relationship is in much much trouble. They are almost always very civil, and at times playful with each other, no matter how contentious the rivalry becomes.

It’s repeatedly stated that Neal is a musician who needs to record something, but out of his whole band, we only spend time with his drummer. The rest of the group appear for three seconds early in the picture and again at the end for a few seconds. Wouldn’t they be helpful if he is going to record something?

As far as a central conflict, it’s as basic as they come. The big guy versus the little guy. Sometimes, it can be acceptable to hang your story on a well-worn structure. That’s often the best way to go if you are going to give the audience a lot of creative storytelling flourishes. Have them expecting one thing to happen and something completely different blindsides them. Don’t expect that here. Seriously, don’t expect it. It’s not going to happen.

The most disappointing part of the whole film is that it’s not very funny. A few moments shine through but a lot of the time, the story seems to be content to drift along listlessly. There are some deadly dull stretches which makes the mercifully brief runtime seem a little longer than it is. The low budget (betrayed by the extremely digital look of the camerawork) isn’t even to blame. It’s completely the fault of the script.

Poor Christopher Lloyd can only mumble his way through his role while Aaron Stanford isn’t particularly bad as the lead, just kind of blah. Okay Zooey, you made your point. You have the market cornered when it comes to playing quirky, free-spirited young women. The best character in the whole story is Bruce (Frank Wood) a sad figure who, along with being a supplier for Flakes, knows nearly every detail of nearly every cereal ever made. Talk about useless knowledge. Sad as he is, he is also funny.

Special features include: nothing.

‘Flakes’ does have a novel setting, which counts for something. A few mildly amusing moments aren’t enough to eradicate the overwhelming mediocrity. It’s probably a good thing that most people didn’t see this. Zooey Deschanel’s career owes nothing to this one.

Unrated             87 minutes          2007

This post was written by:

J.J. Ellis – When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

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