By: Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer
John Lee Hancock’s The Founder (released into theaters late last year), starred Michael Keaton as the famous McDonald’s franchise creator Ray Kroc, who helped build the restaurant into the fast-food-giant it is today. The Founder follows Kroc as he meets McDonald’s founders Dick and Mac McDonald (played by Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch, respectively), and inserts himself into their company.
While John Lee Hancock may not be a household name, his films have likely been enjoyed by many Americans. Having directed such “based-on-a-true-story” films as 2002’s The Rookie, 2009’s The Blind Side, and 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks, Hancock’s works have become a major part of American culture. Additionally, it’s pretty clear what he’s good at- crafting historical dramas based on real-life experiences, bundled with a tinge of comedy.
Thus, 2016’s The Founder fits squarely within that niche. Making good use of Michael Keaton’s recently resurrected career, Hancock crafts a film designed to educate the audience of the rather insidious past of America’s largest fast-food franchise, and its supposed founder, Ray Kroc. The story, one that I’d imagine is unknown to most audiences, is immediately intriguing to those who don’t know much about the history of McDonald’s, and is really the main draw of the film.
Writer Robert D. Siegel has been tasked with telling this new story to audiences, and his work ultimately leads to more questions than it answers. This isn’t to say his writing is poor- It’s actually almost too good. Much like Aaron Sorkin’s non-fiction works (such as 2010’s The Social Network, 2011’s Moneyball, and 2015’s Steve Jobs), Siegel’s consistent quips and movie-like lines remind audiences that this is really just a film-adaptation of a real-life story. Seemingly perfect lines of dialogue had me wondering exactly how true the film’s retelling of this story was. Rather than being engrossed in the film, I was constantly wondering if what was transpiring on screen actually happened.
The film’s cheesiness never ruins The Founder, however. Actors Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch hand in terrific performances within their roles. While Offerman has been typecast in recent years as a stereotypical bearded, “‘Murrican” man, he appears nearly-unrecognizable in The Founder. All three present stellar performances throughout the film.
Despite wonderful aspects and high praise from critics, The Founder was not a financial success, and failed to attract a large enough audience necessary to make up for its small budget. Plus, despite its timely release, the film received nary a mention at The Academy Awards this year. The reasoning behind this is its unfortunately crowded release date. Oscar Season always brings about a wide offering of great movies to theaters, which results in some features being (regrettably) excluded from many theaters. While specialty cinemas may screen limited-release films during initial showings, even they cannot handle the sudden surge in quality films during the later months. The Founder is no La La Land, and, because of that, most theaters never got the chance to show it, resulting in low visibility and a poor box office gross.
Don’t let these problems fool you, however- The Founder is worth a watch for anyone interested by the film’s topic. Don’t worry, it’s no Super Size Me; The Founder is all about McDonald’s corporate beginnings and shady uprising. While it may be filled with cheesy dialog, it ultimately brings a concept to the table worthy of a film adaptation. With a clever director and well-versed cast, The Founder may find success on-demand and at home. Packed with credentials and a polished plot, it’s well worth the watch.