‘Flamin’ Hot’ movie review: A cheery if bland biopic on the inventor of the popular Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

Eva Longoria’s reel interpretation of the mind behind Cheetos’ disruptive marketing, Richard Montañez, is good-natured fun even if not entirely factual

Updated - June 14, 2023 01:09 am IST

Published - June 13, 2023 06:26 pm IST

A still from ‘Flamin’ Hot’

A still from ‘Flamin’ Hot’ | Photo Credit: Disney+ Hotstar

There is something intrinsically seductive about the little guy making it, putting one over the stuffy suits to ride into the sunset. That was the seduction of seeing the fierce Vijay as a shoeshine refusing to pick up money thrown down at him. We knew he was going to become big and own the town — something incidentally the suit, Daavar (Iftekhar), also knew when he called him the “lambi race ka ghoda.”

Enough with the Deewaar references already and let us move from 1975 Bombay to Southern California in 1966 where young Richard Montañez is working hard with not much support from his strict father Vacho (Emilio Rivera).

Flamin’ Hot (English)
Director: Eva Longoria
Cast: Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert, Tony Shalhoub
Runtime: 99 minutes
Storyline: How a janitor became the head of marketing propelled by his hard work and convictions

Richard meets Judy at school where his entrepreneurial skills are already on show as he sells his burritos to his erstwhile bullies. When he is sent to jail because none in authority believes he made his money selling homemade burritos, Richard is on the slippery slope of crime and punishment. Judy (Annie Gonzalez) and Richard (Jesse Garcia) push drugs to make ends meet till Judy is pregnant with their first child. The couple decide to go straight and Richard gets a job as a janitor with Frito-Lay, thanks to his friend and former gangster Tony Romero (Bobby Soto).

At the factory, Richard is always looking ahead and, apart from working hard, learns about machines and their maintenance from Clarence C. Baker (Dennis Haysbert). When Ronald Reagan becomes President, budget cuts causes a loss of jobs and life becomes tougher for the lower-paid staff.

When the CEO, Roger Enrico (Tony Shalhoub), encourages each employee to think like a CEO, Richard proceeds to do just that. When he sees his younger son enjoy a spicy corn snack, he decides if Cheetos were to be spiced up, they would find favour with the considerable Latino population. After much trial and error and buying up every kind of chilli in the market, the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto is ready to be rolled out and, following some initial hiccups, takes the world by storm.

Based on Richard Montañez’s memoir, A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive, Flamin’ Hot is straight as an arrow with the tale it wants to tell. For her debut as a director, Eva Longoria chooses a heart-warming assertion of the reality of dreams coming true. We will not think of that other entrepreneur who dreamed the American dream with a vengeance — a certain Tony Montana?

Montañez’s claim of having invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos has been disputed by Frito-Lay after an internal investigation revealed a slightly more prosaic origin of the spicy snack. The producers, however, decided to go with Montañez’s version of events. There is a fairytale-like quality to the movie, with the colours, imagery and Montañez’s jaunty voiceover. At the end of the movie, when we are told that Montañez retired after 45 years and he and Judy are still together, one cannot help but feel happy for the janitor who with his feisty princess found their castle and happily ever after. Unlike the brothers who faced off on the temple steps...

Flamin’ Hot is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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