Bethlehem Press

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie Review: ‘The Founder’

Saturday, February 11, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

After seeing “The Founder,” you may never look at a Big Mac the same way.

For that matter, you may never think about a fast-food restaurant the same way, either.

“The Founder” is about Ray Kroc (a splendid Michael Keaton), a milkshake device salesman who bought out the McDonald brothers, Richard “Dick” McDonald (a great Nick Offerman) and Maurice “Mac” MacDonald (a fine John Carroll Lynch), whose San Bernardino restaurant was the model for fast-food efficiency.

The film’s title is ironic. Ray Kroc was not the founder of the first McDonald’s, but rather of the corporation whose Golden Arches became a beacon for the fast-food franchise business worldwide.

“The Founder” is a fascinating glimpse into Kroc’s life as a salesman on the road, Kroc’s meeting and courting the McDonald brothers, the McDonald brothers’ struggles in the restaurant business prior to their first success and the franchising of McDonald’s, which led to a running, ahem, beef, and a falling out between Kroc and the McDonalds (beginning with Kroc’s use of powdered milk for milkshakes, no less).

In the excellent hands of director John Lee Hancock, who has a way with biography and fact-based feature films (“Saving Mr. Banks,” 2013; “The Blind Side,” 2008), and with a terrific screenplay by Robert D. Siegel (screenplay, “The Wrestler,” 2008), “The Founder” uses a judicious mix of archival photos, recreations of 1950s and 1960s United States and direct-to-camera narration by Kroc (Keaton) to tell a story that goes well beyond what you may or may not know about Ray Krock and the McDonald’s empire.

Michael Keaton is tremendous as Ray Kroc. If you’re a Keaton fan, “The Founder” is worth seeing for that reason alone. Keaton (“Beetlejuice,” 1988; “Batman,” 1989; “Batman Returns,” 1992: Oscar actor, nominee, “Birdman,” 2014; “Spotlight,” 2015) seems to be channeling some of his best roles, with that petulant pout, toothsome grin, fast-talking lisp, resplendent darting eyes and contemplative face. You can’t take your eyes off of him. This is a masterful performance.

Keaton plays opposite two equally-strong and great character actors: Nick Offerman (TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” 2009-2015) as the prickly, aptly named, Dick McDonald, whose no-nonsense approach propels the restaurant and his performance, and John Carroll Lynch (TV’s “American Horror Story,” 2014-2016) as the dour Mac McDonald, the big, mostly silent brother (was the Big Mac an homage to him?).

Linda Cardellini is wonderful as the effusive Joan Smith, second wife of Ray Kroc. Laura Dern as first wife, Ethel Kroc, sets just the right sympathetic tone. In supporting roles are Patrick Wilson and B.J. Novak.

“The Founder” is a paean to the persistence of the American Dream. Seeing “The Founder” is such an enjoyable, visceral movie-going experience that, afterward, the popcorn and soda might not be enough. You may want to get a McDonald’s.

“The Founder,”MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for brief strong language; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Run time: Distributed by The Weinstein Company.

Credit Readers Anonymous:McDonald’s restaurants in “The Founder” are reconstructions. The oldest Golden Arches McDonald’s is said to be in Downey, Calif. A McDonald’s on the south side of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, replicates the Golden Arches McDonald’s.

Box Office,Feb. 3: Movie-goers didn’t split from “Split,” a three-peat at No. 1 on Super Bowl weekend, with $14.6 million, $98.7 million, three weeks; running circles around “Rings,” opening at No. 2 with $13 million;

3. “A Dog’s Purpose,” $10.8 million, $32.9 million, two weeks; 4. “Hidden Figures,” $10.1 million, $119.4 million, seven weeks; 5. “La La Land,” with Directors Guild of America and Producers Guild of America wins, $7.5 million, $118.3 million, nine weeks; 6. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” $4.5 million, $21.9 million, two weeks; 7. “Sing,” $4.1 million, $262.9 million, seven weeks; 8. “Lion,” $4 million; $24.7 million, 11 weeks; 9. “The Space Between Us,” $3.8 million, opening; 10. “xXx: Return of Xander Cage,” $3.7 million, $40 million, three weeks.

Unreel,Feb. 10:

“The Lego Batman Movie,”PG: Chris McKay directs the voice talents of Jenny Slate, Ralph Fiennes, Zach Galifianakis and Rosario Dawson in the animation comedy film based on the Bruce Wayne-Batman character and characters of Gotham City.

“Fifty Shades Darker,”R: James Foley directs Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Bella Heathcote and Tyler Hoechlin in the romantic-drama, a sequel to the steamy movie based on the popular novel.

“John Wick: Chapter 2,”Chad Stahelski directs Ruby Rose, Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane and Bridget Moynahan about the further adventures of John Wick.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes