Odd and inspiring stories make for great movies and tv series and each streaming service has its share of these niche biographical productions that reveal how a universal product or theory was created. Hulu landed on the incredible story of how the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto was invented at a time when Pepsi Co. and its subsidiaries including the Cheetos and Doritos brands were struggling. What makes this would-be stale story stunning is that the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto was invented by a janitorial employee at Frito Lay who took the initiative to market and pitch his idea to the top CEO at the time. And the results are fantastic and inspiring even if the movie is a paint-by-the-numbers autobiographical comedy drama.
This janitor is named Richard Montañez who wrote a book about his experience at Frito Lay and life as he created the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto. Actress Eva Longoria steps into the director’s chair for her first feature film and plays it safe for the most part in telling this amazing story, but takes her cues from the greats like Martin Scorsese by utilizing the narration of its main character in telling the story with some comedic bits on what actually happened in real life. Jesse Garcia plays Richard whose life plays out on the screen when he meets a friend in grade school named Judy (Annie Gonzalez) where they become inseparable and eventually get married and start a family. This family is closely knit but is struggling in the workforce, which is where Richard lands a job at Frito Lay as a janitor.
Due to his charm and ability to want to learn everything about the company and the machines that make the product, an engineer (Dennis Haysbert) takes him under his wing and teaches him the ins and outs of the company. Longoria really excels in telling this part of the story with some great visual cues that show the passing years and what life was really like inside the factory. When the CEO of Frito Lay (Tony Shalhoub) submits a video to employees for morale, Richard hears him say that every employee is valuable and to think like a CEO, which sends him on the quest to create the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.
With producer DeVon Franklin aboard the film, Flamin’ Hot has a spiritual tone where God and family take a big theme in the movie. It’s never heavy-handed, but it works enough that the faith-going public will be satisfied. Performances are fantastic from everyone involved and the Longoria’s direction showcases her brilliant artistic eye for telling a compelling story. Again, the movie does nothing new or original really, but the story itself is enough fun to watch and learn about this family and how this universally loved product was created, even if there were some discrepancies on how it happened. Recommended!
Written by: Bryan Kluger