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The Founder Review

Small Fry

When "The Founder" opens, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a travelling salesman with a product he feels passionate about - or at least does his best to sell. He has a tool, which will allow restaurants to make several milkshakes at one time. He's got the pitch, the energy and all the right gesticulations that would allow any restaurant manager to believe they need his product.
Kroc hears a lot of "no" when trying to make a sale but it doesn't stop him from calling his wife (Laura Dern) and letting her know that everything is fine. He can't even keep track of all the sales that are coming in, he tells her. Sure, it's all lies but it's also an opportunity for Kroc to do his best to turn things around.
He receives a call from Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman), who wants eight machines for his restaurant, which he owns with his brother, Mac (John Carroll Lynch). Kroc is in shock and complete disbelief at the size of their order, which prompts him to drive to their restaurant and see what it's all about.

When he gets there, he orders a hamburger, fries and a soda, which are ready mere seconds after he places his order. The McDonald brothers show Kroc around the kitchen and he gets to learn about all of their effective ways of bringing food to the customer in just less than 30 seconds. Kroc, who is amazed at such an idea, sees potential for something bigger, even if the McDonald's aren't interested.
Director John Lee Hancock's film, written by Robert D. Siegel, is an exploration of Kroc's empire, which he built on someone else's idea. Kroc did not found McDonald's, but saw the opportunity to expand the restaurant into the fast food juggernaut it has become. The McDonalds - Dick, in particular - don't want to change much about their operations but Kroc does everything he can to make sure they don't have much of a choice.
"The Founder" is about Kroc's arc from unassuming businessman to Machiavellian fast food tycoon. Keaton clearly relishes the role, bringing such verve and energy to a movie whose screenplay cannot quite catch up. "The Founder" doesn't seem like a comprehensive story about the genesis of the McDonald's empire but more like a quick bullet point checklist -- a fast food version of what must be a far meatier tale. Furthermore, as a character study about Kroc, the movie is quick to shift its protagonist from milkshake machine salesman to the head of an empire, without connecting a few dots in between.

Hancock, as he did with "The Blind Side" and "Saving Mr. Banks," directs with an upbeat tempo even when the story goes to some dark places. The result is that his style and tone rarely match the subject matter and everything comes off a bit more uneven than his previous efforts. In a movie about a fast food chain, perhaps it's fitting that so much doesn't seem organic.

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