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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Tortilla Heaven

MOVIE REVIEWS

TORTILLA HEAVEN (2007)

Starring Jse Ziga, Miguel Sandoval, Olivia Hussey, Elpidia Carillo, Alexis Cruz, Judy Herrera, Marcelo Tubert, Irene Bedard, Lupe Ontiveros, Del Zamora and George Lopez.

Screenplay by Judy Hecht Dumontet.

Directed by Judy Hecht Dumontet.

Distributed by Archangel Entertainment.  94 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Tortilla Heaven

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 Falfurrias.  Filled 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 it. 

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 almighty dollar. 

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 fifth try.

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)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2007 PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved.  Posted: February 9, 2007.

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Copyright 2007   PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved.  Posted: February 9, 2007.

 

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