McDonald’s is one of the most established brands in America and globally. It’s engrained in our culture and there’s not too many people who haven’t stepped through the Golden Arches in their lifetime. The new film The Founder starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s Mogul Ray Croc tells the true life story of how the fast food giant came to be and the changes it made to the food industry and to society itself. You would think this would be a biopic about chasing the American dream and local boys doing good, but The Founder shows you the dark side of the rags to riches story with money and power destroying relationships and turning something so good into something so sour.
The Founder focuses on the early days of the fast food juggernaut with Ray Croc selling Shake makers to local restaurants until he discovers a unique business run by two brothers with the last name McDonald. It takes a little while to get used to the accent Keaton is working with portraying Croc, but the Birdman actor has such charisma that you can ignore the goofy voice for the most part. Croc is enamored by the brothers self titled restaurant with its limited menu, fast service and good food. Ray convinces Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) to grant him franchise rights to their business in a deal that seemed sweet for both sides. This odd couple relationship starts out nice, but quickly devolves when money, greed and power takes hold of Ray in his quest to bring a McDonald’s to every city in America.
Outside of Keaton, the rest of the cast isn’t given the depth they deserve for a movie like The Founder. The two brothers played by Offerman and Lynch are a fascinating duo, but are mostly ignored in the second half of the film in favor of a Minnesota husband and wife franchise owner (Patrick Wilson & Linda Cardellini) who Croc becomes friendly with. Laura Dern plays nothing more than an ignored housewife, which is funny since her character is given the least amount of attention in The Founder. The movie revolves around Keaton and what you think of his performance will probably decide how you feel about the film.
For a brand like McDonald’s associated with happy meals, kindness and believing in magic, The Founder has a dark side to its story. The film could serve as a public service announcement for anyone who has a successful small business and are being approached by outsiders claiming to make them rich. The film is also a nostalgic trip down memory lane showing how simple and special the McDonald’s experience once was before McGriddles and self-serve order stations. The biopic starts hot, but cools down as the layers of Ray Croc are peeled away revealing his true self. The Founder is an engaging movie, but lacks that special element that makes it an Oscar contender.
Overall, I give The Founder 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell