BY THE COMMANDER
2½ (out of 4 stars)
In case you don't know the name Ray Kroc, he's the salesman who created the McDonald's franchise. Now let me be clear, he did not invent the McDonald's hamburger restaurant, he created the franchise. The two men responsible for creating it were Dick and Mac McDonald. These were two brothers who came up with the ingenious idea of fast food utilizing no plates or silverware, having your food premade and delivered to you, the customer, at the window counter in less than 30 seconds. What we now call “Fast Food”.
Founder is a tale of treachery, greed, deceit and stepping on everyone to obtain your goals. Ray Kroc alone was not intelligent enough to create a profitable franchise only, it was the knowledgeable of others who assisted in making McDonald's what it is today. However most of those people are no longer in the picture.
The story starts off with Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) a salesman endlessly traveling the country attempting to sell his 5-spindle milkshake mixer. Continually striking out, one day he gets message from his office that a Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) would like to order five of these mixers. Flabbergasted Kroc drives across country to meet the brothers. Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) is the brains behind the operation and Mac is more the “marketeer”. They show Ray the operation and he is astonished. He comes up with the idea of franchising (even though the brothers own attempts had already failed). Being the salesman he's able to convince the brothers to give it another try and let him run with it and so the games begin.
I liked this movie for it was a honest telling of the true story of the success of McDonald's. Ray Kroc didn’t make his fortune earning 5% of the franchisees income, he earned it by being the largest real estate holder in the US. Upon advice from Harry J. Sonneborn (B.J. Novak), a key to McDonald’s success, he explained to Ray that he wasn’t in the burger franchise business, he was in the real estate business. He setup a plan for Ray to buy the land for every location and have the franchisees lease it from him providing him with both assets and income. As the bank said you have income but you don't own anything. Ownership is the key to wealth. The film then delves into the darker side of Kroc once he obtains money and power, stepping on his franchisees, business partners, the McDonalds, even his wife, while shrouding himself in a shield of armor surrounded by his corporate lawyers.
The problem I had with this film was Michael Keaton himself. While other cast members turned in great performances I saw Keaton repricing his role of Batman and Beetlejuice. Same tone of voice, mannerisms and expressions. He even went so far as replaying Beetlejuice scenes. I compared scenes in both films, and other than the hair, make up and costume is it was exactly the same character. Keaton may not have been the best choice to play Ray Kroc as he didn't step into the role without dragging other characters with him.
This is not a film that needs to be seen in the theaters. You can watch it when it comes out on your home theater system. But it should be watched by anyone thinking of going into the business of franchising. Sometimes it's not your product that earns the money, it's the ancillaries that generate the most income.