With the digital release of The Founder I purchased the film and watched it over again.  The Founder was a film that I had been waiting for and was really bummed when the film got pushed back from August 2016 to January 2017.  When I finally saw the film I was surprised that there was talks of Oscar buzz.  The movie was…decent.  Star Michael Keaton was good but not great.  His Ray Kroc was really not a likable guy and could even be seen as both the protagonist and antagonist of his own film.  I reviewed the film here and I stand by my first assessment of the film.

The thing that continued to bother me on the second viewing was really how the film seems to blame Kroc for his continued vision.  The McDonalds brothers came up with the entire concept.  They created the formula and the equipment to make themselves successful.  But Kroc?  He can truly be seen as the man who took that idea and made McDonalds into the billion dollar company it is today.  If it wasn’t for Ray Kroc would there have even been a McDonalds?  I mean a McDonalds every twenty seconds no matter which direction you go in.  The answer is no.

I decided to read Ray Kroc’s autobiography Grinding It Out to see what Kroc had to say on his own success.  First of all the film portrays him as a down and out milkshake mixer salesman but the book has Kroc talking about how he was at least a bit successful in this venture.  Even before that he had a great job that he left to sell these mixers.  Kroc was always looking for the next big thing.

Kroc’s own words show he is a man of vision.  He doesn’t seem to pull any punches in getting down to the disagreements he had with the brothers.  Maybe the McDonald brothers wanted things to slow down or just be “their way.”  But Kroc had the foresight to surround himself with amazing people and to keep on expanding and expanding.  The McDonald brothers may have come up with the ideas and concept – but it is because of Ray Kroc that there are McDonalds all over the world today.  If it stayed with the brothers?  They may have never went ahead and tried to expand their enterprise again (they had tried before to less than stellar results) but certainly would have never attained the success Kroc had.

History will show that Kroc shoved the brothers out of their own business and this is true.  Kroc was very aggressive in trying to accomplish his goals of mass expansion of the McDonalds brand.  The brothers ended up snagging $1 million each when they sold the company to Kroc (though the film also shows that they got screwed out of a handshake deal that would have brought them untold millions).  The truth of it is the brothers would have never made anywhere close to a million running a burger stand in California.

If Kroc never did his thing?  No Big Mac.  No Shamrock Shake.  No McRib.  And you can leave the United States for countries like England, Japan, Israel, or the Netherlands and always find those golden arches.  McDonalds is an institution.  Why is it known worldwide?  It isn’t because of the McDonalds brothers.  They had the ideas.  But it was Kroc who led to the rise of one of the biggest success stories of the 20th Century.

I think The Founder does a good job of trying to balance both sides from the McDonalds brothers to Ray Kroc.  My problem is Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Kroc just comes off greasy.  Watch any archival footage of Kroc and you can see that wasn’t him.  You could argue that “this is Kroc in his later years” but keep in mind Kroc launched into the McDonalds expansion in his early 50’s.  He was no spring chicken.

That’s not to say that John Lee Hancock’s film isn’t a good movie.  It is!  But as this is subject matter that is interesting to me (for some odd reason) I think I’ll continue to read up on the subject.  Up next – John F. Love’s Behind the Arches.  Hopefully this shows a good balance from the subject matter in Hancock’s film and Kroc’s version of events in his autobiography.