There can never be too many biographical films in this day and age, especially when a great story can come out of it. Streaming on Hulu is Searchlight Pictures’ newest film, Flamin’ Hot, which is the perfect example of a film following this exact trend. The film depicts the true story of Richard Montañez, a Mexican-American who decides to leave behind a life of crime, and build a better future for himself and his family. When he lands a job at a Frito-Lay factory down in Southern California, his curiosity leads him to create the iconic cheese snack we all know and love today: The Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.
Any fan of Flamin’ Hot snacks knows that these are some of the most tasty and addicting snacks known to mankind. To be able to see the story of how our favorite spicy cheese doodle came to be is something that we can’t miss out on. The film itself wastes zero time in introducing us to Richard Montañez, his wife and children, and the communities he is a part of, and the audience is immediately thrown into his story.
The retelling of Montañez’s life is unique and enough to get you engaged, and much of this largely in part due to Jesse Garcia’s upbeat and animated narration throughout the film. Not only that, but his on-screen presence as the Flamin’ Hot legend makes the film so fun to watch and gets you rooting for him from beginning to end. But it isn’t just Garcia who adds entertainment to the film. The supporting performances of Annie Gonzalez as Judy Montañez, Dennis Haybert as Clarence C. Baker, and even the adorable Brice Gonzalez as Steven Montañez manage to greatly enhance the journey that the film intends to portray.
A large portion of Flamin’ Hot takes a meaningful approach toward the family dynamic of the Montañez family. Being a part of a low income and marginalized community, family plays a large role in the decisions that each person makes. For Richard, there’s a clear turning point for him as he decides to abandon his past, live an honest life, and do right by his family. Meanwhile, his wife Judy juggles raising children, searching for jobs, and being the biggest cheerleader for Richard. It’s easy to feel for them but it’s also endearing to see family be the key thing that keeps them together and pushes Richard to keep going.
While I did expect some discussion of the hard times that fell upon Frito-Lay due to their lack of growth, I did not expect so much of the film to make that a primary focus of the plot. It’s rare to see lower and middle class workers be represented in the media, especially in a light where most of these people are simply trying to make a living for themselves and their families. Not to mention, there’s an open yet subtle conversation regarding racial differences, and the fact that someone could know everything there is, be able to teach and train others on everything there is to know, and still be stuck where they are. Flamin’ Hot does well in highlighting so many more workplace issues that we as regular people understand and have experienced.
But here comes a major gripe regarding the movie. While it is expected to see more of the business end of Frito-Lay and the Flamin’ Hot brand of snacks, it lacks heavy emphasis on the actual creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Throughout much of the film, I kept waiting for the scene from the trailers where the family is working together to combine various spices and flavors, and I had hoped for more of a deep dive into that process. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, and felt rushed and forgettable, and it ended up being overshadowed by everything else going on in the film.
When it comes to a film about food, one would hope that there would be more of a discussion about the various flavors involved, a bigger explanation of the food shared within a community that inspires reason and motivation. So it was to my disappointment that there was so much discussion of business, numbers, and the ups and downs, but not enough focus on how we got there in the first place.
With all that said and done, Flamin’ Hot still holds comedic value, and is absolutely one of the better feel-good biographical films we’ve seen thus far. While it is lacking in some areas, it attempts to make up for it in other ways that may or may not be to its benefit depending on the viewer. It is still an engaging story that also focuses deeply on family, the struggle of the lower and middle working class, and the decline and rise of Frito-Lay, all thanks to one man and his family. If you’re a fan of Flamin’ Hot snacks, you love a good biopic, or you just love movies about food, this is a fun and easy film that you’ve got to watch.
Flamin’ Hot receives 3.5 out of 5 Samosas.
Flamin’ Hot is now streaming on Hulu.
Runtime: 1h 39m
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