In The Founder, a severely watered-down The Social Network or There Will Be Blood paired with mass-produced fast food, Michael Keaton does a decent job in playing Ray Kroc, the ambitious man who ushered the McDonald’s brand into a world of blockbuster success, though at the end of the day his performance is nothing all that memorable and comes with a curious, oft-slurred accent that makes me wonder how anyone was ever able to understand what the real Kroc was saying at any given time. The lack of chemistry he and the rest of the cast have with one another only further solidifies the film’s average quality-Laura Dern as Kroc’s wife Ethel brings little to the table, though Nick Offerman & John Carroll Lynch give their McDonald brother characters individually defining traits (Offerman eschews Ron Swanson-esque stoic-ness, while Lynch is slightly more playful in a vain attempt to try and claw his way back into prominent films). Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini as husband-and-wife McDonald’s franchisees do what they can with the material they’re given, and B. J. Novak, returning to the Hancock camp following 2013’s drab Saving Mr. Banks, tries to give his tiny role a bit of gee-whiz ‘50s energy but ultimately ends up coming off as Ryan Howard all over again. Plus, let it be said that Nick Offerman without facial hair doesn’t work well at all.
One might expect more from director John Lee Hancock, although to be honest I have personally never truly loved any of his films, which also includes the supremely run-of-the-mill 2002 sports effort The Rookie and 2009’s overrated The Blind Side. However, it is disappointing to know that Robert Siegel, the writer of 2008’s outstanding The Wrestler and who also directed 2010’s Big Fan, scripted The Founder-the man can, and has done, much better. If anything, this film should serve to make one realize how terrible of a person Ray Kroc was, and may even dissuade future visits to any of the many restaurants he helped develop into the culinary mainstay they are today.
Overall, the quality in terms of Filmmaking 101 isn’t terrible, but that still doesn’t mean The Founder is a great movie. See it if you will. Much like a trip to a real McDonald’s, it’ll be out of your system soon.