Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Founder

By George M. Thomas
Michael Keaton is Ray Kroc in The Founder.

He’s considered the founder of the fast food behemoth known as McDonald’s, but although he may have been a visionary, as shown with many warts, Ray Kroc was a snake oil salesman and weasel.

Ultimately, that’s the charm of THE FOUNDER, the latest effort from John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side).

Hancock, directing from a script by Robert D. Siegel, doesn’t hesitate to show Kroc (portrayed by Michael Keaton), a man who has been lionized in the past, for the flawed, opportunistic individual he was.

Kroc’s version of the American Dream belonged to someone else – Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) in this case. 

The McDonalds owned the first McDonald’s restaurant and pioneered the fast food techniques that allowed them to assemble a tasty burger and fries inside a minute. Kroc meets them while selling milkshake mixers and weasels his way into their lives and business lending credence to the P.T. Barnum saying: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  In the McDonalds’ case, that would be two.

Despite reservations about allowing this quick talking fox into their henhouse, the McDonald’s take Kroc up on his offer and pretty soon McDonald’s restaurants are rising faster than suburban homes in the 1950s-era where THE FOUNDER is set.

Kroc delivers on his promise of making McDonald’s a staple – especially in the Midwest, but with the growth comes problems such as franchisees not adhering to contracts and those pesky McDonald Brothers. He soon finds a way to deal with both, courtesy of a brilliant business maneuver that ultimately allows him to control both entities. Check that.  He soon lays claim to everything for which the McDonalds worked.

Undoubtedly this is Hancock’s best film to date.  Despite the dark tone, he finds the charm and humor in the subject matter.  He, however, owes much of that fact to his cast.

Keaton’s played individuals of morally questionable character before, but he makes Kroc more than just a bad guy.  It’s easy to see how anyone could be conned by the guy.  Kroc is who Bill Blazejowski, Keaton’s character from his breakthrough film NIGHT SHIFT, could have become with age.  Keaton’s performance shows that he loves every minute of it.

But Keaton has plenty of support, most coming from Offerman and Lynch whose portrayals of brothers who realized they’ve been duped too late are works in restrained bemusement and disbelief.
The Founder is one of those films that deserved a better fate.  It’s an enjoyable dramedy with outstanding, nuanced performances.

Director:  John Lee Hancock
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini
Studio:  The Weinstein Company
Rated:  PG-13 for brief strong language
Running time:  115 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-4 stars

Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, ClevelandCinemas, and

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