The Founder

Almost everyone in the world knows about McDonald’s. The American fast food hamburger chain has made a name for itself since it was started in 1940 by brothers Mac and Dick McDonald. Since those initial days, it has become a global powerhouse with its name praised and reviled in equal measures. ‘The Founder’ explores how it became such a culinary conglomerate. It also shows the power of marketing and how brand recognition allowed it to become a part of social culture.

In 1954 McDonald’s is a small fast-food chain doing good business. Making profit on their humble outfit, the McDonald brothers Richard (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) are happy with their slice of capitalism. Salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) enters their lives and nothing is ever the same. Seeing potential for further growth, Ray integrates himself into the company. Wanting to turn it into a world-wide phenomenon, Ray’s efforts find him continually at loggerheads with those failing to see his uninhabited vision.

‘The Founder’ is interesting in that’s its central character is almost a villain. We aren’t watching someone triumph against adversity but one creating it and winning at the cost of other’s hard work. Ray’s opportunistic nature enabled him to see the ‘big picture’ in expanding McDonald’s as a recognizable name. He was way ahead of his time as such tactics are now commonplace. That doesn’t mean it was a good thing to do as his clashes with the McDonald brothers reveal them to be victims of Ray’s monetary idealism.

Despite playing a largely unsympathetic person, Keaton inhabits the role well. He effectively allows the viewer to know where Ray is coming from with his ideas even if you don’t necessarily agree. Offerman and Lynch are great as the brothers, making one feel sorry for their dealings with Ray even if their name now delivers dubious connotations. John Lee Hancock’s direction is fine even if it drags out the narrative a little. The pacing could have been better with Ray more clearly defined than the almost ‘moustache-twirling villain’ he appears here.

An often engrossing history lesson on the genesis of an empire ‘The Founder’ is a solid morality tale. How it grew due to one person’s determination and skills is to be marvelled at even if his methods were ones commonly used by the most successful of smooth salesmen.

Rating out of 10: 7

Bad Santa 2

It’s very easy to be cynical about Christmas. From the early department store decorations to the barrage of tinsel everywhere, it’s understandable why the season grates. Such a time is ripe for mickey-taking which ‘Bad Santa 2’ does with glee. Hardly a comedy that would give Shakespeare pause, it also doesn’t wallow in fake sentimentality. It’s gritty and proud of it with the ‘bah humbug’ motif in overdrive with a Santa stores would hesitate to hire.

Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is a thieving layabout always on the make. Scheming to steal more booty, he is ably assisted by sidekicks Marcus (Tony Cox) and Thurman (Brett Kelly). Aiming to knock off a charity on Christmas Eve, he dons a Santa suit to grab some loot. His plans go awry with the arrival of his horrid mother Sunny (Kathy Bates). As wicked as Willie, Sunny determines to score big. The bizarre rabble quickly scheme to bring their own black yuletide cheer while indulging in a spot of festive fisticuffs.

‘Bad Santa 2’ won’t win any Oscars and nor does it need to. It’s there to raise a few laughs at the expense of an over-hyped holiday period. It does this with ease as Mark Waters’ direction makes full use of the premise. Populated by a bunch of unlikeable miscreants, the plot goes from one gag to another. If one falls short there’s another quickly taking its place with the performer’s great comedic timing evident. Mostly free of bodily function jokes, the threadbare script makes an effort to create mirth which is welcome.

The cast is populated by old hands who know the routine by now. The main quartet of Thornton and company effortlessly gel as a team and manage to inject some humanity in their cartoonish characters. Their ability to switch from verbal to physical comedy is amusing to watch even if clichés creep into the screenplay. The entire film looks like a living comic book with plenty of colour and sound to keep the rhythm at a constant speed.

Although it’s a silly load of nonsense ‘Bad Santa 2’ offers breezy and crude laughs. A message or two can be found amongst the hijinks but it’s generally a vehicle for skewering the festive season. It does so well turning the once sacred motif of jingle bells into a definite version of unholy jingle hells.

Rating out of 10: 6