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Flamin’ Hot Media Play News

March 3, 2024

STREAMING REVIEW:

Hulu/Disney+;
Searchlight;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong language and brief drug material.
Stars Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Emilio Ribera, Vanessa Martinez, Hunter Jones, Dennis Haysbert, Tony Shalhoub, Pepe Serna.

Wanting to feel the artificial love generated by Awards Season®, I paged through this year’s Oscar nominees and in no time landed on my favorite category: Best Song. Infidels see the performances of the nominated songs as the perfect time to freshen up their cocktail or dash to the bathroom and snort another rail. Who needs narcotics when the memory of Paula Abdul’s tribute to The Little Mermaid (complete with swampy choreography and scuba divers in tap shoes) or Rob Lowe cavorting with Snow White weren’t intoxicating enough? This year you can keep the theme from Scorsese’s apology to women and the lyrical contributions of the entire cast of hipster babysitter Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. And didn’t the Academy already honor Barbie for Hotel Terminus? I love Cheetos, those delectable aurantiaceous styrofoam snacking chips that turn a muncher’s fingers oranger than the right fist of tRump’s proctologist. Flamin’ Cheetos arrived on the scene in 1989, the brainchild of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia) an enterprising janitor at Frito-Lay’s whose invention instantly became a staple in grade school lunch pails. (A friend’s kid would drench them in Tapatio before washing them down with a shot of Tabasco.) Frito-Lay’s nutritionless munchies and director Eva Longoria’s Flamin’ Hot are each made up of heavily processed corn and in both cases, all the more delectable for it.

For a feel-good picture that goes out of its way not to offend, the sour note that brings up the curtain does so with nauseating aplomb. What Fox Searchlight has done to Alfred Newman’s emblematic 20th Century Fox logo music with stringed CinemaScope addendum is clearly a manifestation of madness. For her debut feature behind the lens, Longoria doesn’t direct so much as she speeds things up to keep pace with the scattergun narration. Opening in an upscale restaurant, the one specific trait Longoria establishes without relying on dialog is that Montañez is not the guy working the kitchen, he’s a customer. Viewers of celebrity biopics spend a great deal of time checking to see how close the performer came to xeroxing the subject. Being unable to pick the real-life Montañez out of a line-up contributes greatly to the enjoyment. When he first meets his future bride, Judy (Annie Gonzalez), the pair stick out like “two sore brown thumbs” in an otherwise lily white high school. What choice do they have but to spend their lives together?

Abuelito (Pepe Serna, Hispanic royalty) stresses the only thing his grandson has in life is his name. Even before the credits roll, Richard describes himself as a “self-professed, most uneducated, successful vato you’ll ever meet. (To our delight, the script interjects chicano slang with the greatest of ease.) A born pusher, Richard won over the school bully by getting the gringo hooked on his mother’s burritos. Success led to his arrest when the cops nabbed the brown kid with too much green. He observed, when the world treats you like a criminal, you become one. The wall-to-wall narration and hyper-editing can become oppressive. Amid the swish-pans and fervent cutting, Longoria slows down long enough to paint a nostalgic portrait of Reagan-era America. One gets the feeling that the auteurs in the pack are the real-life Richard and Judy Montañez, both of whom received a “based on the life stories of” credit.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, Montañez’s version of his inventing the piquant crunchers rang false enough to set the former janitor’s asbestos Dickies on fire. Contrary to his claim, the flaming junk snack was whipped up by a “team of food professionals” in Frito-Lay’s Plano Texas Headquarters, approximately 1.319 miles east of Yucca Flats as the crow flies. Frito-Lay credited Montañez with “pitching several successful snacks developed for Latino customers while working as a machine operator.”

As for the Best Song nominee, did I miss it? That’s what I get for ducking out before the credits roll.

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John Latchem

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