According to the Los Angeles Times, Richard Montañez did not invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The author of A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie, and Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive claimed he crafted a spicy slurry after a Cheetos machine broke down at a Frito-Lay factory and he took a batch of the popular snack home to directly pitch it to then Frito-Lay/PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico. None of those events reportedly happened, as his claims did not align with the product’s launch timeline. When the project was announced in 2019, Frito-Lay made the producers aware that Montañez’s claims are false, but the studio chose to make the film as it was anyway.
But does it necessarily matter? Not really, because the film itself is a celebration of the idea that one person’s dreams can be the catalyst for major success. Jesse Garcia plays Montañez, who is desperate to find a job. After getting hired as a janitor at Frito-Lay, he starts to befriend higher-ranking employees, including Clarence C. Baker (Dennis Haysbert), who is working at Frito-Lay for over thirty years. During the Reagan administration, economic cuts are hitting the factory hard, which could include shutting it down completely. It’s where Montañez shows initiative to save the factory’s jobs and future by crafting the Flamin’ Hot blend of Cheetos and pitching it directly to Roger Enrico (Tony Shalhoub), which sets a chain of events that are so surreal you may not believe they’re true.
Well, they’re not. But, as mentioned above, it’s not that big of a concern. Most biopics are known for romanticizing details of an individual’s life for the silver screen and don’t necessarily strive for historical accuracy. Flamin’ Hot is exactly that, and one shouldn’t be concerned about what’s true and what isn’t because the film is loads of fun to watch. If it weren’t very good, maybe that would’ve been a concern. However, Eva Longoria, who makes her feature directorial debut, infuses the film with incredible verve, bringing out terrific performances from its stars.
Garcia magnifies the screen as Montañez and delivers each monologue (and there are a lot) he gives with impeccable timing and energy. Most of his pleas are crafted in the form of monologues, but they’re never dull or feel stretched out. He shares great chemistry with Annie Gonzalez, who plays Richard’s wife, Judy, giving the film some much-needed levity. I also thoroughly enjoyed the opening scenes, where a young Montañez starts to make pocket money by distributing Burritos to his classmates because they can’t get enough of them. That parallels what occurs near the end of the film, where he needs to sell as many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as possible for the survival of the factory and the brand. Haysbert, Shalhoub, and Matt Walsh are excellent supporting counterparts to Garcia, with Longoria ensuring they all get their time to shine, even with a tight 99 minutes.
The film also has great energy brimming through its dynamic camerawork and montages. While the story can be a tad conventional, the way Longoria treats the material with cinematographer Frederico Cantini and editors Liza D. Espinas and Kayla Emter infuse the movie with tons of flashy and engaging techniques to hook the audience in the story. The only legitimate flaw of the film’s structure is that it takes a bit too long to get to the “Flamin’ Hot” portion of the film and wraps that portion out rather quickly since it spends way too much time in that first act. As such, the film doesn’t have much of an ending because of the traditional structure it adopts.
But these are minor nitpicks. Flamin’ Hot is a blast. It may not be based on a true story, but its tale is universal. If you have a dream, or a vision, of how you want your life to be, don’t wait for the stars to align because they may never do in your favor. Just go for it. Never take “no” for an answer. If there’s something to learn from this film, regardless of the story itself, is that the path to massive success requires you to take uncomfortable action, no matter how big or how small it takes for you to get to where you want to go. That’s a fairly important message to grasp in these uncertain times.
Flamin’ Hot releases on Hulu and Disney+ on June 9.