PG-13 and probably pretty well-deserved. It's got a decent amount of mild language. The bigger issue is that the protagonist has a history with gangs, which mostly included drug dealing. They talk about drugs more than I'd like. Normally, I'd be fine with a lot of this, but we watched the movie with the kids on Disney+. Yeah, yeah. I knew it was PG-13. The movie is mostly fine with content, but it isn't squeaky clean.
DIRECTOR: Eva Longoria
Sorry, I normally don't mess with the font colors, but I wanted to find something that would be genuinely "Flamin' Hot" red. I felt like the "Director" section was probably the safest place to go. I have to give you a little bit of context before doing a deep dive into what might have been one of my favorite movies of the year. We had started Maestro the night before. It was late and the baby was crying, so we called it at a certain point. Maestro wasn't grabbing us. The following night, the older two kids were up with us and we wanted to find something on the Academy Award nominees that would be fine to sit through with the kids. Flamin' Hot, up for Best Original Song, was on Disney+. Well, after the absolute slog that was Maestro, Flamin' Hot became the discussion topic of "Oscar Snub that Came Out of Nowhere".
Honestly, I might be overselling it right now. One of my students said that almost nothing in this movie was based on fact and that bums me out. Again, these are things that I could be Googling right now, but I choose not to. Part of me wants the movie to exist both as absolute truth and a tall tale existing in the background of the cultural zeitgeist. I have so much that I want to break down, but I'm not sure what direction that I want to start with. Part of the conversations we've been having is the need to show films that highlight cultural differences to our kids. So much storytelling is about White, Cis-gendered Americans that look like us and are well off. I know. I'm sounding incredibly woke. Every time someone says that this is the story about this culture or subculture that isn't about a straight White male, the word "woke" is thrown around. But it seems when talking about racial issues, movies tend to be incredibly dour. Now, this brings up an interesting concept: where does the line sit when it comes to deciding whether culture is valuable only when exceptional or when it comes to its inherent value.
Comedies, when it comes to race, tend to draw with broad strokes. There are some minor issues with Flamin' Hot that could be considered broad stereotypes. Richard-as-Narrator addresses this. He knows that Mexicans are often associated with gangs and drug deals, but he also states that the story wouldn't be the story without those things. The movie is aware that it could be going back to some of those same old wells that other movies have done with characters of Hispanic descent. Instead, the movie acts as a celebration of culture. Never is the Hispanic background something that should be laughed at. If anything, societal norms are the things that deserve a little bit of mockery in this story. Richard, as a child, sells bean burritos to the White students at his school. The happy reaction is that this kid knows how to hustle. But the derision comes from the closeminded White kid who scoff at anything different.
Keeping all of this in mind, the movie taking racial inequality in the work force and making a comedy out of it. It embraces some hard truths: White people tend to be the group that fails upwards. Richard is so thrilled to have a job as a janitor because every other job that Richard would be qualified for is unavailable. While there are people in the film that come across as antagonistic, the real evil is Reaganomics and the lie of trickle-down spending. The minority characters highlight that there is a healthy culture that has to fall back on less-than-reputable sources of income because life is never easy if things are done in the wholesome way. It's a lot of that. Here's me as a parent and that's exactly how I show descrepency. Is there a day that I might show them something more serious? Yes, I can't wait. But since Disney has this movie available for me right now and it is completely accessible, I'm going to show my kids Flamin' Hot. It's the exactly level of approachablity that a movie about this topic should have.
It is weird that I'm celebrating a movie that makes Pepsi / Frito Lay the good guys of the story. I mean, Pepsi really comes across as winners in this movie. Roger Enrico is shown to be the greatest human that ever lived. The way that he's written in this movie is that he's a guy who is entrenched in a corporate culture that silences voices while he is the guy who wants to raise up the little guy. I established that I don't know the reality of what happened with Flamin' Hot. I don't know if it's all malarky. I don't necessarily want to read the book that this movie was based on. But I do know that Roger Enrico comes across as a filippin' saint in this movie. The movie wouldn't really exist if Enrico was portrayed in any different matter though. There's this moment in the story where Richard steals the phone number to Enrico's office and calls him. Enrico's secretary is dubious, but secretly becomes the hero of the movie by patching Richard through to Enrico. It's stuff like that. I almost need to know how the real story.
Unfortunately, that story isn't really out there. (I kept making comments how I wasn't going to Google this. I ran into enough roadblocks where I needed to find out the answer myself.) There's a dispute between the real Richard and the Los Angeles Times. I can see where the real Richard Montanez would want to attribute the development of Flamin' Hot Cheetos to the goodwill of Pepsi and the wisdom of Roger Enrico. After all, Montanez is the marketing director of the company and that yarn got him the notoriety that he was looking for. It's just that issue that I have when I go on a rant about Disney has it all together. I don't want to be the guy who is celebrating a major corporation that has probably done more evil in the world than good. After all, I watched Pepsi, Where's My Jet? I get that the folks at Pepsi have done more evil than good in the world. It's just that I want this story to be something glorious. I teach about the American Dream and Flamin' Hot is one of the first really outright celebrations of the American Dream out there. I doesn't sugarcoat America as a magical place. Rather, it is a portrayal of something that America should be.
The greatest selling point of Flamin' Hot is that this movie is better than it has any right to be. Again, we were watching Maestro, a movie that is up for so many Academy Awards. I'm going to savage that movie pretty soon. I don't want to, considering that Bradley Cooper worked really hard to make that movie. But Flamin' Hot has strong characters, a great script, phenomenal direction by Eva Longoria, and is just darned funny. It took a concept that should ultimately be unfilmable and turned it into something that we had genuine fun with as a family. Flamin' Hot, for all of its absurdity, knocked it out of the park.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.