Every now and again, a movie comes along, usually based on a company, that has people scratching their heads. “Really,” they say, “Hollywood expects us to see a movie about Facebook? They’ve lost it.” Well, they say that, until The Social Network comes out and the Oscar buzz circulates and people complain that Jesse Eisenberg was robbed of the Oscar by Colin Firth. “He was just in that dumb movie about the stuttering King anyway! I could have done that.”
So, is that what’s happened here? Was the gnashing of teeth as we say “Why on Earth are they making the McDonald’s movie?” really unfounded, or did the general public have a point this time?
Well….. it’s no Social Network, let’s put it that way. On the scale of Hollywood biopics, it’s more of a Beyond the Sea. Remember Beyond the Sea? Me neither.
As the title suggests, this movie follows the early days of the McDonald’s legacy, namely through the businessman Ray Kroc. When we meet Ray, he’s a struggling milkshake machine salesman, traveling between Drive-In diner’s across the United States, trying to convince the owners that they could do with a machine that makes 6 milkshakes simultaneously. He has just enough luck to keep a roof over his and his wife’s head, but business is slow. But one day, to his surprise, a diner phones in to order 6 of the milkshake machines, which is 6x more than most would even contemplate. Ray goes to investigate this diner, run by a pair of brothers – Mac and Dick McDonald – who finds that they’ve revamped the entire kitchen to allow for speedy food delivery. Ray ingratiates himself with the brothers, and together they set out to make the McDonald’s Hamburger Stall become a nationwide phenomenon.
Ray Kroc, in this film, is played by Michael Keaton, and it’s this performance that would make or break this movie. Kroc is a slimy individual, willing to do just about anything within his means in order to get ahead of his competition, and this is the sort of character that Keaton can definitely play. Unfortunately, he plays the role a little safe – a little obviously Keaton, if I can use his name as an adjective – so that you never really lose him in the role.
I mean, if anyone deserves to be an adjective, it’s this guy.
The rest of the cast are perfectly adequate. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) plays’ Ray’s long suffering wife fine, and Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) and Linda Cardellini (Scooby Doo, Avengers: Age of Ultron) provide some spark as a pair of ambitious and creative franchisees in Minneapolis whom Ray takes a liking to. John Carroll Lynch (Fargo) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation, every Internet meme) also provide some comedic highlights as the hard-working McDonald brothers.
I don’t know what it is about this movie, but it was so incredibly middle of the road. I should have expected it I suppose. The movie is directed by John Lee Hancock, who is known for making middle of the road films and somehow earning scores of praise (see: The Blind Side, Saving Mr Banks). There was nothing inherently wrong with this movie, of course. It just didn’t feel like it was worth anything. It was sort of like I was experiencing a Large Big Mac meal. Experiencing it wasn’t anything spectacular by any means, but neither was it completely unpleasant. Nonetheless, upon conclusion you wondered why on Earth you just spent $10 on that. The difference, of course, is that this movie is unlikely to take another $10 the next time you get drunk at the pub with your mates. I mean, why drunkenly watch The Founder when you can have an intoxicated quote-a-long to Anchorman.
The film does, at times, play a little bit like a promotional piece for McDonald’s, with the film ramming it down the viewers’ throats that McDonald’s is a family – and that is is super integral to the American dream and all that other claptrap. They do try to balance it with a bit of humour about where McDonald’s would end up – “Powdered milk? What next, frozen chips? Sawdust in the burgers? Not in my McDonalds”, but it is a bit jarring for anyone who perhaps doesn’t worship at the feet of Ronald McDonald, Grimace and those other ones.
Which one were you again? Tweety? Flappy? I don’t remember, I’ll just call you Fred.
Of course, it doesn’t shy away from some of the despicable behaviour that went into building a company like McDonald’s, which most characters getting screwed over by Ray in the end. But this was all information that could be gleaned by spending no money and 1 hour less of your time by browsing around of Wikipedia a bit. Nothing new was proferred from this movie, and that is perhaps the biggest sin that a biopic can commit.
There’s really not much else I can say about this movie. It’s fine, it kills a couple of hours adequately enough, and you’ll immediately forget most of it.
2.9/5 – Forgettable. What movie were we talking about again?