“The Founder” is not a glaring 2-hour promotional commercial for McDonalds. Aside from its business merits and trendsetting fast food branding, the tense relationships between Kroc and his wife (Laura Dern), the financiers, and the original McDonalds franchise owners are the best dishes served on the film’s menu.
Patrick King, REEL BRIEF
Sixty-three years ago, they owned the fast food hamburger market, outpacing even Burger King (Insta-Burger King at the time) nationally. Soon McDonalds offspring popped up along almost every U.S. main street nearly as fast and efficiently as their burgers, fries and milkshakes arrived at the front counter of each franchise restaurant. Now the burger giant serves 1% of the world’s population. Every day.
“The Founder” traces the chaotic mid- to late years of Ray Kroc, the Illinois salesman who sold milkshake makers–and just about everything else—back in 1954. Academy Award winner Michael Keaton nicely plays Kroc, the future head of The McDonalds Corp., as business plans and relationships form to develop the world’s model for fast food customer service.
While this chronological true story feels documentary in style, it doesn’t usher many outward emotions from viewers, either good or bad. Mostly informative in nature, only a few times during the movie are we given glimpses behind the golden arches into the unpleasantness of Kroc during his dramatic rise to Franchise King status.
The film’s interesting story parts boil down to the relationships in Kroc’s life at the time. Case in point: His discovery of the McDonalds brothers in San Bernardino, California…soaking up their revolutionary business model and floor plan ideas. Both ingredients key to an assembly line of burgers so fast, efficient, and successful it would make Japanese car manufacturers stand up and applaud with envy.
This movie is not, however, a glaring 2-hour promotional commercial for McDonalds. Aside from its business merits and trendsetting fast food branding, the tense relationships between Kroc and his wife (Laura Dern), the financiers, and the original McDonalds franchise owners are the best dishes served on the film’s menu. The less endearing picture painted of Kroc is underscored by his hijacking of the McDonalds trademark name and his ruthless negotiations that made it happen.
Viewers go from supporting Keaton’s earnest salesman character and chain-food vision as Kroc, to switching restaurant tables to watch his troubles get unwrapped from afar.
Unfortunately, “The Founder” storyline is slightly overcooked and drawn out. Do not go see this movie on an empty stomach or without a caffeinated beverage in hand. The reward is a historic look back to the beginning of the first widely successful fast food industry that decidedly paired down its meal options while streamlining its delivery method to customers. Hidden inside this Happy Meal are relationship time bombs that prove both fascinating to understand but not necessarily enjoyable to see.
“The Founder” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Its running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.
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