IFC First Take

NEW YORK -- A New Orleans-set slacker comedy centering on the competition between two dueling cereal restaurants, "Flakes" more than lives up to its name.

Minor to the point of barely existing, this effort from director Michael Lehmann is a far cry from his early success "Heathers," despite its similarly wisecracking protagonist. Playing an exclusive theatrical engagement at New York's IFC Center, the film seems destined for a quick ride to home video.

The titular establishment is owned by a burned-out hippie (Christopher Lloyd, playing an older version of his wide-eyed, shambling "Taxi" character) and run by young manager Neal (Aaron Stanford), an underachieving, would-be rocker. Neal's continuing to neglect his music career in favor of doling out exotic cereals -- many of them discontinued brands dating back decades -- to his wacky, obsessed clientele is particularly frustrating to his girlfriend, the exotically named Pussy Katz (Zooey Deschanel), who dreams of tooling about the country with him in an Airstream trailer pursuing their respective artistic goals.

She gets her opportunity to goad him into action with the arrival of an unctuous yuppie (Keir O'Donnell) who sets up an identically named and far slicker rival establishment directly across the street. This prompts the bohemian, leftist Neal to engage in a variety of tactics, ranging from dirty tricks to a threatened lawsuit, to eradicate his upstart rival.

The resulting counter-cultural comedy of manners has an immediately dated feel, though it might induce some would-be entrepreneurs to copy the admittedly clever dining concept.

While Stanford is more annoying than endearing as the self-righteous slacker, the charming Deschanel provides the film with its few moments of genuine fun with her offbeat turn as the wily, put-upon girlfriend.