Movie Review: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Get a Loaded Origin Story, One That’s Worth the Crunch

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Jesse Garcia in a scene from "Flamin' Hot," a tale of how a Mexican American janitor came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Jesse Garcia in a scene from "Flamin' Hot," a tale of how a Mexican American janitor came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
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Movie Review: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Get a Loaded Origin Story, One That’s Worth the Crunch

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Jesse Garcia in a scene from "Flamin' Hot," a tale of how a Mexican American janitor came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Searchlight Pictures via AP)
This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Jesse Garcia in a scene from "Flamin' Hot," a tale of how a Mexican American janitor came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Searchlight Pictures via AP)

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos get an origin story worthy of any Marvel superhero with Hulu’s totally engrossing “Flamin’ Hot.” It’s the tale of how a struggling Mexican American janitor came up with the idea of adding spice to the cornmeal, forever saving after-school snacking.

Is it true? Probably not. Don’t let that stop you.

You’ll wish “Flaming Hot” was accurate because it’s a winning tale of perseverance, family love, proud heritage and blue-collar success, told with a wink, some Cheetos dust and a ton of love by Eva Longoria, in her directorial debut.

Jesse Garcia stars as Richard Montañez, a one-time Frito-Lay floor-sweeper in southern California who convinced his bosses to make a snack that celebrates the flavors of Mexico despite a seven-layer dip of sceptics.

“New products take years to develop, cost millions to launch and they do not get created by blue-collar hoodlums, who probably can’t spell hoodlum,” our hero is told.

Nevertheless, Montañez persists, cracking the Latino market and repairing his relationship with his abusive father along the way. “I’m the guy who helped bring the world the most popular snack it’s ever seen,” he says in a voice-over.

It’s an unlikely story, for sure. No, really. It’s unlikely. The Los Angeles Times has published allegations that Montañez fabricated his role in the snack’s creation and Frito-Lay says he “was not involved.”

But Longoria and the screenplay by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez — based on Montañez memoir — will have you cheering when the gnarled red snacks finally zip along on an assembly line and you’ll be ready to gleefully fist-bump Montañez, played understatedly but with deep soul by Garcia.

This is more than just a snack-version “Rocky” story, with the filmmakers exploring the insecurity of factory shift workers, the stress of integrating into white culture, how hard it is for corporations to innovate and the ability to silence the voices in your head that urge you to quit.

In one heartbreaking early scene, Montañez — so poor he waters down the milk for his kids and uses chewing gum to seal holes in their shoes — is wide-eyed at the Frito-Lay factory until he notices all the overcooked chips are tossed. “People are always trying to throw away the brown ones,” he says.

The filmmakers enliven their story with wonderful flights of fancy, like when we see Montañez lose it and beat up a manager with a mop after being called Paco. “Nah, just kidding,” he says in the voice over. “What you think? It was my first week on the job.”

To show the passage of time during the Reagan administration, they’ve also cleverly got a man on the factory floor holding a box reading “1985,” the extruder pumps out “1986” and forklifts carrying boxes that read “1987” and “1988.”

There are a few references to Frito-Lay scientists in the Midwest also working on a spicy flavor, but this is strictly a fist-in-the-air portrayal of Montañez alone, set to a soundtrack of Latin artists like Santana, Los Lobos and Ozomatli.

His heroic arc is more than a little unbelievable, especially when he taps his former drug-dealing pals to start handing out free bags of chips like pushers, and for the many times he jumps up on a piece of factory equipment to deliver a “Dead Poets Society”-like speech.

Dennis Haysbert as a gruff engineer, Annie Gonzalez as Montañez’s loving wife and Tony Shalhoub as the CEO of Frito-Lay all add welcome flavor notes.

It’s the montages that really shine, like the moment in a park when Montañez, eating elote and watching everyone put hot sauce on their food, gets a vision of a spicy snack. “I had been searching for an answer. Or a door to open. And there it was all around me. It had been there the entire time,” he says.

There’s also the sequence when he and his family try every chile combo — poblano, pasilla, serrano, guajillo and habanero included — until they find the right formula, often hovering around their youngest kid as he samples a chip and gives them the green light.

The final product is credited with opening the door to cool new convenience store flavors and for US corporations to finally respect the Latino market. That’s a lot of stuff to put in a bag of chips, even if it’s all made up. But it’s so fun to watch. It burns so good.



‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ Celebrates Friendship, Ryan Reynolds Says

Canadian-US actor Ryan Reynolds (L) and Australian actor Hugh Jackman pose on the red carpet upon arrival to attend the UK sneak peek event for "Deadpool & Wolverine", at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, west London on July 11, 2024. (AFP)
Canadian-US actor Ryan Reynolds (L) and Australian actor Hugh Jackman pose on the red carpet upon arrival to attend the UK sneak peek event for "Deadpool & Wolverine", at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, west London on July 11, 2024. (AFP)
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‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ Celebrates Friendship, Ryan Reynolds Says

Canadian-US actor Ryan Reynolds (L) and Australian actor Hugh Jackman pose on the red carpet upon arrival to attend the UK sneak peek event for "Deadpool & Wolverine", at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, west London on July 11, 2024. (AFP)
Canadian-US actor Ryan Reynolds (L) and Australian actor Hugh Jackman pose on the red carpet upon arrival to attend the UK sneak peek event for "Deadpool & Wolverine", at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, west London on July 11, 2024. (AFP)

The global promotional tour for "Deadpool & Wolverine" touched down in London on Thursday, with stars Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman bringing their bromance to the movie's UK sneak peek event.

The two have entertained fans with their humorous, high-energy appearances at previous stops in Shanghai, Seoul and Berlin.

The third installment in the "Deadpool" movie franchise sees Jackman's Wolverine return from retirement to help wise-cracking Deadpool (Reynolds) save his world.

"It's about friendship," said Reynolds, who also co-wrote and produced the film.

"There's so many moments in the movie where it's hard to tell if Deadpool's talking to Wolverine, Wolverine talking to Deadpool, or it's Hugh and Ryan talking to each other. And I'm really proud of those moments."

Jackman had not planned to reprise the role of the gruff, clawed X-Man Wolverine. But the Australian actor said his mind started changing after he watched the first "Deadpool" film.

"It was something in here," he said, pointing at his heart. "I really thought I was done. And then, five or six years later, I was driving and I just knew in my bones I wanted to do that."

"I knew for fans it would be the thing they'd waited for, I knew it'd be a kind of dynamic that we've never seen before. I had no idea how hard it would be physically at age 55 to do it but it's absolutely worth it. I have loved every second."

Secrecy surrounds the film's plot details. Respecting the characters and their legacy was at the heart of the writing process, said director and co-writer Shawn Levy.

"But then we pushed them into areas that other movies haven't," he said. "I think you're going to see some aspects to both their performances that are quite different than what we've seen in their prior films."

The only Marvel-Disney movie released this year, "Deadpool & Wolverine" is expected to be a box office hit when it begins its global cinematic rollout on July 24.

"There is a lot riding on it but we've worked really hard to deliver the goods," said Levy.

"I focus on the opportunity, not the expectation. The creative opportunity to connect with a huge global audience in a new way, in a surprising and fresh way, that was delicious," he said.

For Reynolds, 47, releasing the film to the world comes with other concerns.

"I feel like I've waited my entire life to do this one movie. The only problem that poses is I don't know what the hell we're supposed to do next."