Flamin’ Hot is an inspiring film by Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) about a snack that bites you back! (It’s actually about a guy named Richard Montañez and the journey that inspires him to create the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, but I wasn’t going to let that line go to waste…) The film is an adaption of his memoir, A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive. That book chronicles his challenging life arc and Flamin’ Hot spices up the best parts of it for your television consumption. Moreover, the film is a salute to people like Montañez who must endure all sorts of social obstacles to achieve success.
Flamin’ Hot introduces us to Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia) and his family in the context of a cliché. He comes from a large Mexican clan that (barely) makes ends meet through oppressively laborious field work. All the white kids at his school bully him for eating burritos and he eventually turns to a life of crime before becoming the patriarch of his own burgeoning brood. It all initially makes the movie feel a bit run-of-the-mill, however, this is all just a setup to highlight what makes Richard Montañez special. The rest of the film dives into the people and the circumstances that motivate Montañez to transcend from janitor to executive.
The film goes on to lay out the arduous path that Montañez must take to go straight. He eventually gets a job as a janitor at a Frito-Lay plant in Rancho Cucamonga and this is where his story and the movie really take off despite a turbulent state of affairs. Montañez’s family is broke, and the American economy is on the brink of recession. However, Richard never loses hope and Jesse Garcia excels in portraying the level of energy and enthusiasm that is required to survive such dire conditions. There are points in the movie where you can’t help but wonder how a guy so down on his luck can stay so positive.
The answer to that question comes from his wife, Judy Montañez (Annie Gonzalez). The chemistry between Garcia and Gonzalez is one of the best things about Flamin’ Hot. Gonzalez’s portrayal of Richard’s wife is stirring. She passionately projects the unrelenting faith that Judy has in her husband. She judicially meters the frustration that a matriarch probably feels trying to survive poverty and she does it with an approachable Latin flavor. By the end of the movie, Gonzalez makes it clear that Judy is just as responsible for the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto sensation as Richard, and you fall in love with the both of them for the synergy that they embody.
Flamin’ Hot also forces you to appreciate Mexican-American culture and its value in the United States. The film makes a concerted effort to speak to the worth of Mexican Americans. And I think it’s important to notice because the migrant Mexican tends to be unfairly vilified in America. (Shout out to Fox News.) The way the Montañez family takes pride in undertaking seemingly menial jobs while channeling a sense of ambition is pretty indicative of what real-life Mexican Americans bring to the table. The Mexican work ethic is crucial to the success of the American economy and Flamin’ Hot offers great insight into why.
Lest you wonder, Flamin’ Hot does not rely solely on sentiment to grab your attention. Flamin’ Hot is a technically sound movie. The lighting is bright and provides a strong sense of optimism throughout its runtime. The pacing is efficient, and the story rarely lulls. The letterbox formatting makes a compelling human-interest story feel cinematically enchanting. Movies like Flamin’ Hot make your Hulu or Disney+ subscription worth the money.
Ultimately, Flamin’ Hot is a pleasant reminder that *cliché alert* dreams really can come true through hard work and resilience. It’s a reminder that America is the only country on this planet that truly offers the opportunity for them to come to fruition regardless of where you start. If you’re born in a Brazilian favela, you’re probably going to die in that Brazilian favela. If you’re born into the British middle class, you’re probably going to die in the British middle class. Flamin’ Hot shows how, in America, diligence, innovation, and a little bit of luck can take you from nothing to something. And that makes Flamin’ Hot an emotional testament to the power of the American dream.
Flamin’ Hot is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.