CATEGORIES Comedy, Independent, SXSW, Theatrical Reviews, Cinematical Indie, Reviews, SXSW Film Festival, Cinematical
Ever seen one of those "slacker ensemble" comedies like Clerks, Empire Records or Waiting? Then you've seen just about everything that Michael Lehmann's Flakes has to offer. Too bad the thing feels like a half-hearted and flimsily-written quickie production that forgot to include a whole lot in the laughs department. Penned by first-timer Chris Poche and polished by the generally excellent Karey Kirkpatrick, Flakes feels like something that was slapped together in a week with little attention paid to factors like originality, charm and humor. Not only have you already seen this belabored concept numerous times, but you probably didn't like it all that much the last nine times it popped up somewhere.
Aaron Stanford and Zooey Deschanel (last seen together in Live Free or Die) play a pair of insufferably smug "ain't we cool" anti-establishment-style free spirits who spend their days selling caustic T-shirts and doling out bowls of cereal for a stiffly "wacky" group of customers. But when a smarmy young businessman moves into the neighborhood and aims to steal the "cereal restaurant" concept for his own nefarious needs, why, it's up to the whole gaggle of slackers to band together and save their cereal bar, goshdarnit! In an effort to pad out the running time, Stanford and Deschanel must also contend with a "he won't grow up / she needs more" subplot that goes exactly where you expect it to -- and it does so in rather lethargic fashion.
Schizophrenic and smug to a fault, Flakes trots out its stock characters, obtusely unrealistic plot threads and overbearingly self-satisfied dialogue as if it were the first movie ever to come up with the "wacky retail ensemble." And it's really a shame, too, because Flakes comes from not only a well-established and clearly talented co-writer (Kirkpatrick wrote for such films as Charlotte's Web, Hitchhiker's Guide and Chicken Run), but also from director Michael Lehmann, who (a long time ago) directed the mega-classic Heathers -- before helming stuff like Hudson Hawk, Airheads, My Giant and Because I Said So. Yowch.
The cast is set adrift with some woefully undeveloped (and generally unappealing) material. Aaron Stanford and Zooey Deschanel are irritating in a way they've never been before, Christopher Lloyd provides (yet another) embarrassingly broad and typically wild-eyed performance, the background cast is generic at best, but for the most part entirely forgettable. The New Orleans setting seems refreshing at the outset, but literally nothing is done with the location; Flakes feels like it was shot on a pair of sound stages. Basically Flakes is a one-joke movie in which the one joke is very old, tired and seemingly attached to a life-support system. I hate to be so down on a comedy that comes from so many filmmakers and actors I admire, but this flick's about as satisfying as a bowl of soggy Corn Flakes.