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01 February 2017

Founders keepers? Not so fast McDonald's

Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc in "The Founder" (Courtesy: IMDB.com)

Do you want lies with that?

You'll get plenty -- supersized, in fact -- in the compelling Ray Kroc biopic The Founder.

Michael Keaton shines as brightly as McDonald's iconic golden arches in this blistering tale of deceit, egomania and franchised burgers.

Let's put it this way.  When it comes to how McDonald's erupted into a worldwide empire from humble beginnings in California, the secrets weren't just in the sauce.

Keaton, nominated for an Academy Award for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) two years ago, was oddly left out of the Best Actor Oscar race this year for a jittery performance as a floundering frustrated burger joint-to-burger joint milkshake machine salesman looking for a shot at success in the 1950s. 

Kroc (Keaton) sees what McDonald brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) have done to revolutionize the fast-food burger business in San Bernadino, Calif. and he wants a bite.

That "bite," a small percentage for opening McDonald's franchises, grows to an insatiable appetite for wealth, control and dominance as Kroc dots the nation with golden arches on borrowed, no, make that pilfered, authority.

The Founder might not be the best movie you'll see this year.  If you enjoy the work of one of our finest actors, though, in a finely chiseled performance without any visible flaws, this is a based-on-truth biopic well worth your time.

This is not a documentary, of course, so screenwriter Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) and director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Alamo) have no doubt taken some liberties in this exercise in turning frightening facts into dramatic cinematic entertainment.

In a movie like this, however, the gauge for me is not only if it is well-acted and presented and the historical period looks up to par, but whether or not I yearn to discover more about the facts after I walk back out into the harsh bright lights of reality.

The answer here is yes and yes.  Keaton brings the late Ray Kroc to the screen in a manner that riveted me to the edge of my seat.  And he's not the only one.   Offerman and Lynch are in fine form as the meek McDonald brothers, and Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars) is outstanding as Kroc's long-suffering wife Ethel.

Simply put, The Founder is a keeper.

MPAA rating: PG-13 ( Brief strong language)

115 minutes

Jalapeño rating:  3 (out of 4)



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