Tortilla Heaven

A speck of regional whimsy with a Latino twist, Judy Hecht Dumontet's independent debut feature revolves around an apparent miracle that unleashes a deep well of greed lurking beneath colorful small-town bonhomie. The director and coscreenwriter's film is filled with good intentions, but they can't support the heavy load of satirical digs at religious venality...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A speck of regional whimsy with a Latino twist, Judy Hecht Dumontet's independent debut feature revolves around an apparent miracle that unleashes a deep well of greed lurking beneath colorful small-town bonhomie. The director and coscreenwriter's film is filled with good intentions, but they can't support the heavy load of satirical digs at religious venality and worldly corruption she heaps on top of them.

Isidor Navarro (Jose Zuniga) owns Tortilla Heaven, the best (indeed, the only) restaurant in tiny Falfurrias, New Mexico, population 73, but he's the last to notice that one of his homemade tortillas has been touched by an angel — the kind of angel who delights in slapping the face of our Lord on foodstuffs in out-of-the-way eateries. Isidor, a none-too-religious fellow, nevertheless sees an opportunity to make a few extra bucks by charging for a look at the blessed tortilla. But Mayor Don (Geno Silva) and Father Pancracio (Marcelo Tubert) have bigger ideas: Each wants to claim the miraculous object — which is soon credited with resurrecting a pig from the dead and helping a local woman pass her civil-service exam — for his own purposes. Enter snake-oil peddler Gil Garcia (Miguel Sandoval), accompanied by a trio of big-city babes (Ana Ortiz, Krissy Matthews, Laura Salinas) who can't believe they're in a backwater so backwards that they can't get no-fat lattes or salad with the dressing on the side. When Gil is through spinning the situation, he promises, Isidor and his face-of-Jesus tortilla will be a marketing phenomenon, a veritable gold mine. Gil's huckstering brings a flood of curious faithful into the town, hoping for a glimpse of heaven on Earth, but Isidor and his neighbors find themselves at each others' throats, each looking to cash in before the holy gravy train rolls on out of town.

Dumontet's surprisingly strong supporting cast includes comedian George Lopez, episodic-TV regular Alexis Cruz, veteran character actress Lupe Ontiveros, singer-actress Irene Bedard, Anna Ortiz of TV's Ugly Betty, SALVADOR costar Elpidia Carrillo and U.K. actress Olivia Hussey as an ex-pat British artist who can't wear clothes because her pores are too small. But their efforts are consistently undermined by the ham-fisted direction that reduces the small-town characters to broad caricatures. Costar Sandoval comes off best, finding a sharp balance between humor and sleazy opportunism in the flamboyant Gil Garcia, but single-handedly saving the film is beyond even his abundant charm.

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  • Released: 2007
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: A speck of regional whimsy with a Latino twist, Judy Hecht Dumontet's independent debut feature revolves around an apparent miracle that unleashes a deep well of greed lurking beneath colorful small-town bonhomie. The director and coscreenwriter's film is… (more)

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