THE FOUNDER – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
The fact that pretty much everyone in America knows about McDonalds hamburgers is a testament to Ray Kroc.  But Ray (Michael Keaton) was not the man he advertised himself to be.  He was neither the founder of the McDonalds nor was his store the first of the McDonalds restaurants.  This film explains just who he was in relation to the today’s world-wide super corporation.
It all started when Ray, a man selling multi-spindle shake blenders (and losing his shirt), received an order for not one but SIX of the monster units.  Sure that his secretary must have heard wrong, he calls the phone number in San Bernardino, California, to verify the mistake.  When Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) answers the phone, he agrees that the number of units shouldn’t be six, it should be EIGHT!
Ray is mystified and decides on the spot he needs to discover the story behind this mysterious food establishment.  This means driving across country from Illinois to Southern California.  Arriving at the McDonalds restaurant, Ray finds a walk-up burger joint with a line stretching out nearly to the street!  The line moves quickly and soon Ray is asked for his order.  Giving an order for a hamburger, fries and a coke, the counterman informs him that the total due is thirty-five cents.  Before Ray can put the change in his pocket, the order is on the counter waiting for him!  He argues that this couldn’t possibly be his order, he just gave it.  The counterman assures him, it is!
Ray sits on a bench in the parking lot and tries the burger.  He loves it.  Watching others enjoying the food his whole life changes, no longer a seller of shake mixers, he is determined to get in on the riches to be made with this concept.  He watches a man sweeping up the parking lot.  The man asks him how the hamburger is.  Ray responds that it is the best hamburger he ever had!
The man turns out to be Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch).  Mac Gives Ray a tour of the store.  It only makes Ray even surer of his decision.  He wants to franchise the restaurants across the entire United States.
And that is just what happens.  In fact, this is the story of how Ray convinced the McDonald brothers to allow him to franchise the restaurant.  It is not a nice story of goodness and sweetness.  It is the story of how an ambitious man took a concept that was light-years ahead of its competition and built an empire that today is worth billions per year.
It is the story of a man who was always looking for that get-rich-quick scheme.  He is married to a woman (Laura Dern) who takes care of his home and lives for evenings at the country club.  She has not seen him much over the years as he continually searches for his fortune.  Franchising the restaurants soon takes Ray away again from home. 
This film made me cringe a LOT!  As I watched Michael Keaton bring Ray Kroc to life before my eyes, what I was seeing was the story of a man I would not turn my back on.  He was portrayed as a man with big dreams but also a man who would covet another man’s wife.
Ray is portrayed as a second rate P.T. Barnum whose goal was to make money off the people’s desire for a good inexpensive hamburger.  The McDonald brothers are portrayed as nice guys who had a genius idea, years ahead of their competition, who are taken advantage of in a heinous way.
How close to the truth is this story?  I don’t know.  Is it a story worth watching?  Yes.  It has everything you are looking for in a drama.  The story is compelling because it’s a brand we have all grown up with.  It has passion, it has drama, and it even has love or at least lust. 
It has amazing sets.  The restaurants are amazing in their attention to the detail as designed by the Dick McDonald.  The scene where the brothers worked out the exact way to lay out the store was fun to watch as the kids’ playacted the steps designed to make the burgers, fries and drinks.  It highlighted the genius that went into each of the stores.
I liked this film.  I even had a McDouble in my hand when the email arrived announcing the screening I attended.  I will never eat another meal from these restaurants without thinking about both the McDonalds and Ray Kroc.
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)
Selig Rating: A
Runtime: 115 Min.
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
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