It's tough to fault a movie
for putting too many interesting ideas and risks on its plate, so it is hard
to dislike Tortilla Heaven -- which has many intriguing layers.
Unfortunately, it's a little hard to work up any great love for this
whimsical morality tale, either.
Tortilla Heaven is
about a small town deep in the deserts of New Mexico called
with eccentric types, the town is quietly
dying of boredom when it is touched by a possible miracle. In a local
restaurant a tortilla is cooked which ends up having the face of Jesus on
When the tortilla helps to
create a "miracle" having to do with an old truck and a pig (or a coincidence, depending how you look at it...), it
becomes a tourist attraction and the sleepy town starts to change from the
infusion of gringo dollars. The restauranteur (Jose Zuniga) and his
wife turn his respected little Mexican place into a cheesy theme place.
Locals make tortilla t-shirts, coffee mugs, knick knacks and more -- and
they all argue over who deserves to make the profit. Even the local
cop (George Lopez), mayor and Priest get overwhelmed by the lust for the
Too many of these
characters seem a little quirky for quirkiness sake -- like a nudist artist
(Olivia Hussey) who sells things on eBay and is considered to be a witch by
the townspeople. She almost seems sort of normal when talking to her
beloved daughter or fighting with her old friend the restaurateur, but in
other scenes (like one where she hyperventilates after being covered by a
towel for a matter of minutes) she seems like a cartoon. The same
cartoonishness goes for the older townswoman (Lupe Ontiveros) who worships a
flat-screen TV and a woman who uses the tortilla to pass the bar exam on a
Then the most offbeat part
comes; when a strange businessman (Miguel Sandoval) shows up in the little
restaurant as if from a ZZ Top video from the early 80s (complete with
classic car and three beautiful scantily clad girls) he starts playing all
the townspeople against each other -- and raking in the profits. It's
sort of left up in the air if he is just a sleazy businessman, a con man or
the devil. Sandoval has great fun with this fast-talking character.
While he's on screen the movie is fast and fresh.
This all tears the fabric
of the community apart, causing friends to fight with friends, families to
betray families, lovers to lose respect for each other -- all in the names
of religion and commerce.
I respect the fact that
writer/director Judy Hecht Dumontet was able to juggle all these balls in
the air. I just wish that more of them were interesting.
Frankly, the film may have benefited from more focus.
Tortilla Heaven is
sort of whimsical, sort of charming, but it's not exactly a full, satisfying meal. (3/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: February 9, 2007.