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Title: The Founder

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:78

Everyone loves the story of a self-made success. The American dream where someone makes something out of nothing and creates a literal empire out of that. It’s that part of us that so desperately wants someone else to succeed that gives us hope that our dreams can be realized someday too. The thing is, most success stories are also a bit controversial. The rise up that ladder is seldom (not never, but very seldom) 100% benign and controversy free, and nothing is more controversial than McDonalds. Yes, those golden arches that serve greasy burgers, deliciously over salted French fries (I adore salty fries) and chocolate milkshakes and sodas. Those double arches that pretty much is the standard by which all other fast food burger joints are judged by. We all remember the controversy with the “pink slime” years ago, or the worries about the ACTUAL nutrition in the meals (which has been improved mightily), down to the undercooked chicken scandals and the notoriously bottom barrel wages afforded their regular employees. That’s not to say that they haven’t worked VERY hard to get where they are, but that the journey has been long and perilous with many a controversy thrown in the way, and it would be a complete “McDonalds” story if the creation of the company wasn’t controversial too.

It’s the 1960s and Ray Kroc is a struggling salesman in his early 50s just trying to get by. He’s made a decent living selling things to other people for he (Keaton) and his wife Ethel (Laura Dern), but Ray is not one to be satisfied with what he’s got. At the beginning of the film he is just about worn out selling milkshake machines when he gets an order for EIGHT of them to a single location in San Bernardino, California. Thinking that there’s NO WAY a single business wants EIGHT of his machines, he goes out to the little “McDonalds” business started by the brother owners and is shocked at what he sees. A little burger shop that is designed around a new concept, speedy delivery. Back in the 50s and 60s most restaurants that were “fast” were 50s drive through diners and the like, which were usually not THAT fast or efficient. What the McDonald brothers had done was create the system that we know and love today. Fast food, fast service, prepared in paper wrapping that could be taken anywhere and then just thrown away. The overhead was gone, the process streamlined and Ray was in love.

The film lets us know right off the bat that persistence and perseverance is key, so it’s not long before Ray has wheedled his way into Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald’s business and he became their head of franchising. While Dick and Mac stayed home and cared for their family business, Ray became the face of the trio, driving new franchises and new opportunities to cities all over the nation. However, the brothers and Ray don’t exactly get along. Dick and Mac are good old boys and want to create a good….honest….wholesome business with good ingredients in their food. Ray is mostly concerned about rising profits and rising franchises and the two ideals down mix when Ray is in favor of slashing quality of food for profits, or using blatant advertising (McDonalds pretty much invented having soda manufacturers exclusive to certain restaurants with their Coca Cola deal decades ago). This conflict leads to the inevitable hostile takeover that everyone saw coming a mile away. Ray teams up with a businessman who clues him into the fact that he can take control of all the franchises by OWNING the land underneath them instead of having the franchise owners lease it. Now, when you control the land, you control the pulse and life blood of the restaurant and soon Kroc is no longer just a franchise manager, but the CEO and head of one of the largest fast food empires on the planet.

I was initially intrigued with “The Founder” and its concept a few months back, and I was more than willing to give it a whirl since biopics are all the rage nowadays. My only concern was how they were going to make a dramatic story out of something as simple as McDonalds. I really shouldn’t have worried because I should have known how much dirt and backstabbing was done in the creation of such and empire, and “The Founder” does a magnificent job at creating a compelling story with that dirt. Much of the success is owed to the fantastic acting from Keaton, who stands front and center as the ruthless Ray Kroc. Keaton has made a sort of popular resurgence lately and I’m ecstatic, as he was one actor that I was sad to see fade away years ago. He models himself after the brutal real life Ray Kroc in a way that makes you admire the man, yet loathe him at the same time. He exudes charm, but the obvious undercurrent of his selfish desires are laid out right in front of you so the viewer is left with conflicting emotions over the character.

John Lee Hancock (who also did “Saving Mr. Banks”, a biopic about Walt Disney and “Mary Poppins”, and “Blindside) does a masterful job at creating tension with the seemingly benign subject matter and keeping the audience glued to the screen. The only complaint I really had was with the second act building up to Ray’s hostile coup of the McDonald brother’s business. It started to drag in that second third of the film and didn’t pick back up until Ray is ready to divorce Ethel and go pure evil on us. Besides that little slump in the middle, it’s a fantastically paced film and one that does a good job at sticking to the facts (something that most of these biopics don’t do so well). Besides some obvious tweaking of things to make it easier to fit in under 2 hours, the story of “The Founder” is surprisingly accurate in general terms and paints a picture of greed and vision in the 20th century.


Rated PG-13 for brief strong language

Video :4stars:
“The Founder” was shot digitally using the Arri Alexa XT cameras and the digital shoot enjoys a clean, if not slightly flat, looking image on 1080p Blu-ray. The colors have definitely been tweaked just a little bit and utilizes a heavy yellow and green filter that is used to give us the period piece feeling of the 1960s combined with some soft pastels for the main coloring. There’s some primary splashes here and there (the green grass, a dart of lipstick or a bright red dress), but otherwise it’s a fairly muted color spectrum. Black levels are healthy and strong, but the filtering and pastel colors sometimes give an ever ever so slightly washed out look in some of the dimly lit scenes. Fine detail is spot on and you can see everything from Keaton’s age wrinkles to the individual fibers on his suit jacket to the tears running down John Carroll Lynch’s face at the end.

Audio :4stars:
Lionsgate gives us a pair of DTS-HD MA tracks to listen to, one in French, one in English. Since I KIND of only speak English that is the one that we’ll be reviewing here today. It’s a nice track, and one that’s fairly indicative of the genre that it’s coming from. Distinctly front heavy, the track deals mainly with dialog and some surround use that takes up the fronts as well as the rear surrounds as well with ambient noises (such as a busy restaurant, or the hustle and bustle of teenagers milling around outside a dine n go). LFE is tight and clean, mainly playing to enhance the score as well as a few minimal weighty elements like an airplane taking off.

Extras :3stars:

• "The Story Behind the Story" Featurette
• "Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc" Featurette
• "The McDonald Brothers" Featurette
• "The Production Design" Featurette
• "Building McDonald's: Time Lapse Video"
• Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast

Overall: :4stars:

Despite the seemingly sweeping nature of the film, “The Founder” actually only takes up a short amount of time as there is COPIOUS amount of information about their international expansion, as well as the conversion to lord of all fast food that happened after the 1970’s ending point of the film. “The Founder” manages to capture a slice out of the empire’s creation and shows a riveting picture of the twisted rise to fame that Ray Kroc enjoyed at the expense of the original owners. Lionsgate has given us a very good looking and sounding Blu-ray and the extras are well worth checking out if you’re an extras fan. Definitely a good watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Written by: Robert D. Siegel
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 115 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th 2017

Buy The Founder On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Good Watch

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. It is interesting that this guy Ray Kroc brought the whole thing from a regional "fast food" restaurant to a national chain.. I do feel sorry for the original McDonald brothers. They got swindled by that slick oil salesman! (at least from what I can gather from the trailer).. Will rent this one.
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