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Flamin’ Hot (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “Flamin’ Hot”. With films like “Air” and “Blackberry”, it seems to be the year of the branded movies. However, this Disney+ original falls short of the mark.

What is Flamin’ Hot about?

“Flamin’ Hot” is a movie that tells the true, biographical story of how the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto was invented. Richard Montañez is a janitor at Frito-Lay, with a rough past. Surrounded by a tough economy, job losses and societal racism; he finds himself battling adversity as he tries to get his great idea (a flamin’ hot slurry) onto the Frito-Lay agenda. It’s an inspirational underdog story about how great ideas can come from small places.

Except, it isn’t true. While there certainly is a Richard Montañez who claims to have invented the flamin’ hot recipe, that claim is heavily disputed by others who were around at the time. A spokesperson from Frito-Lay has said, “”we value Richard’s many contributions to our company, especially his insights into Hispanic consumers, but we do not credit the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or any Flamin’ Hot products to him.”

Flamin’ Hot (2023) Review

I have conflicting feelings about this movie. It doesn’t do anything original, it’s based on a lie and the overall politics of it all is a bit dodgy. However, I did find myself engrossed in the movie and found myself rooting for Richard’s success. There is a lot of adversity thrown his way – most notably racism and a history of abuse with his father. The movie really wants us to feel emotion regarding these, as the whole movie feels like it’s just a series of characters giving emotive speeches about an emotional topic. In some cases, this lands and in others, it doesn’t. There was one sequence with Richard (Jesse Garcia) speaking to his father (Emilio Rivera) that was very effective.

It’s a very typical underdog story without anything to make it stand-out. The movie does play with the idea of an unreliable narrator, with Richard having to redo some scenes after admitting he exaggerated some aspect. Given the contention over the real origins of the flamin’ hot Cheeto – this could’ve been really interesting. However, the movie doesn’t ever cast doubt on Richard’s story. The ending credits cards make it clear that his telling of events is “true”.

The worst brand movie

It’s easy to compare this movie to “Air” (2023). Both movies are about the launch of a new product for a major company and, most importantly, those products are still around today. Both movies are clearly advertisements for the respective product – whether it be Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Air Jordans. However, “Flamin’ Hot” feels soulless in comparison to “Air”. There is very little criticism of Frito-Lay within the movie. Yes, middle-management are presented as awful and racist; but the CEO is presented as warm and cuddly, who is happy to give Richard all the time that he needs. Not to mention, that the movie is centred around lay-offs that are presented as completely unavoidable.

“Air” was hardly harsh on Nike, but there was at least an aspect of silliness to it. Once you start pulling in themes of racism and poverty, it becomes a lot harder to handwave away the corporate aspects of the movie. There’s also the simple fact that “Air” is a better movie. It’s easier to get away with things when that’s the case.

Who should watch this movie?

I’m not sure who I would recommend this movie to. It’s nothing you won’t have seen before and while it is an engaging underdog story, it’s tarred completely by the fact that it’s seemingly completely untrue. Unless you’ve got nothing better to do, I’d suggest giving this one a skip. That said, you’d have a better time (re)watching “Air” on Amazon Prime.

This was a review of the 2023 movie “Flamin’ Hot”. Did you find this movie cool and original, or was it just a load of tangy cheese? Let us know in the comments below.

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