“Flamin’ Hot” gives welcome representation to true-life Hispanic stories and faith, but undermines the power of the story through constant lecturing.
The movie follows the real life Richard Montanez, the son of Mexican immigrants, who overcomes racism and hardship to go from the janitor at a Frito Lays factory to becoming the inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and head of multicultural marketing at the company. The movie is directed by actress and producer Eva Longoria and will premiere on Disney+ and Hulu on June 9.
The movie definitely has stuff to offer families who are looking for a safe, feel-good inspirational biopic. Obviously, the real-life story (unless, of course, the new allegations that the story is made up turn out to be true) is a truly inspiring one. We get to see Richard overcome injustice and his own character flaws to succeed and be recognized for that success. The movie hits all the beats you want it to: It’s heartwarming when it needs to be, funny when it needs to be, and heartbreaking when it needs to be.
It also gives some long overdue love to Hispanic faith. Hispanic Americans are a highly religious American community, far more than White Americans, even though — like many faith groups in America —the religious affiliated are shrinking. And yet, most movies that come out trying to represent this group, such as “In The Heights” and “West Side Story” (and I will bet anything this year’s “Transformers: Beast Wars” and “Blue Beetle”), more or less erase or deeply minimize that part of their identity.
But “Flamin’ Hot” portrays faith as a central part of Richard’s life and depicts his faith as real and important. Whether it’s his abusive father clinging to faith to cover up his previous alcoholism, the strength that his wife gains from her faith, or Richard eventually acknowledging God’s hand in the good that has happened to them and praying together with his wife, Richard’s faith matters.
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