Fast Food Nation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Fast Food Nation Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 23, 2012
Based on the non-fiction expose about the dirty secrets of the fast food industry, this is a fiction adaptation directed by Richard Linklater, and co-written by him and the book's author Eric Schlosser.

What we get here are a series of interconnected stories revolving around the various people involved with a fast food chain, and the role that the restaurant and various aspects connected to it affect all of these people, and vice versa. It seems like a rather odd and challenging way to adapt a work of non-fiction, but somehow it kinda works.

Granted, the film barely scratches the surface, and seems a little too neat, tidy, and convenient in places, but it strikes a nice balance between being a message movie like the similar Super Size Me or Food, Inc. and still being entertaining without too much pretense or over-the-top manipulation to make a point. Yes, there's some disturbing moments and images, but it's not as revolting and off putting as you might be lead to believe.

Instead, it's rather nuanced. and more about the human stories and the role of fast food within culture as opposed to being an extremist piece of muckraking propaganda.

As he is good at doing, Linklater has a wonderful ensemble cast lined up for this which includes Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Bonbby Cannavale, Wilmer Valderama, and two wonderful,. if not brilliant appearances from Kris Kristofferson and (especially) Bruce Willis. Most of their performances are pretty good too...for the most part. Avril Lavigne sucks it up, but at least she's not in it for too long.

All in all, a pretty decent film. I'm not going to become a vegetarian as a result of watching this, and it didn't tell me a whole lot that I didn't already know, but at least gave some more awareness and the arguments that are made are pretty well balanced are well done, too.
Super Reviewer
July 29, 2012
A marketing director for a major fast food joint investigates reports that there is "shit in the meat."
I suppose that attempting to fictionalize a non-fiction book about a systemic problem sets one up to create plastic characters who stand in for larger social problems, and to put Richard Linklater whose characters are plastic anyway only compounds the problem. Typical of Linklater, the heroes and villains are clearly defined; the heroes are anti-establishment types who spout conspiracy theories, and the villains are either conspirators, dupes in the process, or like the cows in the penultimate scene of the film, too stupid to do anything substantial. There are some Mexican illegal immigrants who have some interesting differences from the basic Linklater approach, but these characters aren't substantial enough to carry the film. Additionally, plot elements like Brian's planned robbery and Don's further investigation are inexplicably dropped, leaving parts of the film unfinished.
On a positive note, the film's heart is in the right place. Linklater and co-writer Eric Schlosser are writing against fast food joints, and their arguments are similar to Michael Pollan's. With disgusting images of the kill floor in a slaughterhouse and charges that such places are exploiting illegal labor markets, this argument is strong, and I hope that it finds a receptive audience.
Overall, as a film, Fast Food Nation is not very good, but as a social argument, I can't hate it too much.
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2012
Poorly constructed film that could have been much better considering the themes of the film. I haven't read the book yet, but as far as this film is concerned, I felt it was a poorly done film with plenty of miscast parts. The film could have been good, by actually being a documentary instead of a feature. Overall I thought that the film showed a portion of what's the industry does, but it didn't do anything really good with the material at hand. Considering the topic, you'd think they would add something substantial to the script, but all this film ends up being is a badly acted film that just shows part of industry, and ignores a lot of the important issues. Stripping down the important material, and basically fictionalizing the story, it really makes Fast Food Nation just ends up being uninteresting. The end result is a film that just fails in being entertaining, but most importantly the film fails to raise awareness about the practices of the Fast Food industry. This film could have been good, but it simply doesn't work and the acting is pretty sloppy. Ultimately you lose focus on what's going on, and you just don't end up caring for the material. This is a film that was better off at trying to be adapted directly from the source material, instead of being interpreted into something else. Even if the issues are important, this film isn't, and it ultimately just becomes dull, and uninspired. This could have been a great film, even if it has a powerful message, it fails because of the bad script and performances, and that's a shame.
Super Reviewer
July 29, 2010
A film about food that disgusts with the same intent as the documentaries Food Inc. and Super Size Me, this barely broaches the true nature of the industry that feeds billions but lies with the same intent as any movie villain. Though the film is intricately varied, relating several different paths into one contingent storyline, it rarely reveals its message or intent, instead just going for pure shock value. Yes, the tales of illegal immigrants being exploited all for the sake of a livelihood is awful, execs ignoring key health code violations is deplorable, and the lack of regulation in this powerhouse of an industry is both socially bereft of empathy and sadistic, but what exactly do you want us to take away except a deep level of personal loathing? Sure, activism is a surefire answer, even the more pacifist views expressed as well as references to Green Peace and that of action, but there is no clear indication that the film wants anyone to take this into account. We are instead subjugated to our sterling cast, made up of cameos including Bruce Willis, Avril Lavigne, and Ethan Hawke, popping in just to lend star appeal before fading out again so we can get back to the plant, where atrocities happen one after another like unwanted fireworks. It might have been more powerful if the corporation was under threat at one point, but much of this just panders to our inherent sensibilities and gag reflexes. The scenes of putting down cows was especially catered to end on some sick low note, and though certainly good enough for a film competing with real world documentaries, there is no buildup for it to happen at all. Powerful for all the wrong reasons, I can safely say that this film makes me want to stay far from fast food.
Super Reviewer
½ December 4, 2009
Avril Lavigne trained, mentally prepared, and totally morphed into her character. i was completely fooled into thinking she was this anorexic, worthless, hair-flipping, obnoxious teen bitch who sleeps in her black hoodie and hasn't digested one cheeseburger that she has eaten. fascinating transformation.
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2007
Based on a factual and damning indictment of the fast food industry by Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation tries terribly hard to be the "Traffic" of the meat packing industry, but the fictionalized approach lacks the biting satire required to do the material justice. The story begins quite well, focusing on a fast food company executive investigating an allegation that their burgers have "got shit in them" and it makes for a couple of good scenes involving nice cameos by Bruce Willis as a corporate hard ass and Kris Kristofferson as a jaded rancher. But half way through the film he just disappears, never to be seen again and it turns into a daytime soap opera about immigration?! Obviously fearing McLawyers, the film is based on fictitious companies and therefore passes the buck onto non-existent perpetrators and the whole thing just feels like a toothless, unfocused tirade by an easily ignored soap box environmentalist. Done as a straight documentary adaptation of the book it would've been a powerful statement but if Linklater really felt the need to dramatize he should've watched Thank You For Smoking first to see how it's done.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2007
Meat factories are gross. Duh. Yet somehow they made a movie about it, and tried to do some character development which ended up just wasting my time.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2008
Fast Food Nation is a tricky title for this movie. The idea of our obsession with fast food is foregrounded, but this film is trying to touch on as many sad facets of 21st-century America as it can. From immigration and second-language issues, to service industry working conditions and pay, to corporate lobbying, to a kind of over-glazing homogenization of thinking, Linklater is interested in hitting as many problem issues as possible. It's no wonder that so many actors were willing to jump in for the casting call -- so many "pet" issues -- no pun intended -- they themselves might champion are included, even if only peripherally. As for the "entertainment" value of Fast Food Nation, well, at moments it's there. The cattle who won't leave the pen once the fence is cut down is kind of amusing, though tragically true to life. Unfortunately, in the desire to say something about almost everything, those moments are few, far between, and more quickly killed than the poor cattle in the rush to move on or back to the next issue. Of course there is value in addressing issues, even if there are too many of them to actually do justice to any single one. Think All the President's Men. Now there's a movie that can never be watched too often. The issue of the Nixon administration must never be forgotten. Yes, this Richard Linklater project is good for at least one watch, and it's always heartening to see Esai Morales doing good work. Now there's an actor whose career I keep hoping will finally get kicked into high gear. Morales has a presence, a core intensity that has yet to be fully acknowledged. Check him out closely in the face-to-face scene with Greg Kinnear. Kinnear can't even hope to hold up his end of the conversation. Want to see acting talent? Just concentrate on Morales' hands in that scene -- forget everything else. It's like what I was saying about June Allyson attempting to stand on her own with Barbara Stanwyck in Executive Suite. Incredibly lopsided. No contest, really. Stanwyck's in a different league. Ditto Morales with Kinnear. La Bamba, now, I know, seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Morales was young and a little raw then, but you could still see that he was the very top talent in that movie. I gotta add Morales to my favorite actor list right now.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2007
I like it...but...a little disturbing. I don't know if I can watch it again.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2006
I know what Fast Food Nation was trying to do, but I didn't care despite the cheapest of theatrics (see the kill floor scene.) I was under the impression that I'd be getting some kind of biting satire but all I really saw was an attack on the government and corporate America. I felt like I was watching a low rent cross between Thank You For Smoking and Syriana that relied on a parade of cameos by mostly b-list celebrities and an ambitious but poorly executed script of intersecting storylines and painful dialogue. Dreary, preachy, depressing disappointing and boring, but mostly boring. Mostly disappointing if you consider that Richard Linklater did this. This movie can suck a big rubbery one.
Super Reviewer
October 2, 2007
A great premise that is lost on this ham fisted and poorley executed film. This movie does for animal activists what Land of the Dead does for Zombies.
Super Reviewer
½ August 20, 2007
Tips over into polemic towards the end but on the whole offers an even handed critic on the system behind your burgers. It holds back the gore till late on in a calculated bid to shock but singularly failed for me - after all, how do people think a living animal ends up on your plate ? The starry cast list does have the whiff of left wing liberals supporting the 'cause' but the characters are just about believable enough for you to overlook this.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2007
It would have been better as a documentary, but Linklater is great at creating interesting characters, and that at least saves the film's dramatic clumsiness.
Super Reviewer
December 9, 2006
Fast Food Nation could have been a good movie if it had focused more on its satirical edge than trying to make a social statement through blatant one-sided storytelling. Don't get me wrong, the message is an important one to take with you: be careful what you eat and why you're eating it. Think of the repercussions of your actions, etc. But the movie fails miserably at conveying this message in an original and entertaining fashion. Sure, the storyline, albeit thin and told over and over again, is compelling and intriguing enough to captivate most viewers who don't know any better. But otherwise, the film falls flat into the empty pool of its grandiose intentions.

Some dark comedy elements are evident beneath the bloody surface and should have been given more attention. Some of the performances--particularly Catalina Sandino Moreno as a hapless migrant meat-packing worker and Bobby Cannavale as her unscrupulous American half-breed boss--are stand-outs in a cast that is comprised of lesser talent and blipping cameos by the likes of Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and even Avril Lavigne. The movie basically tries too hard to be "cool" in its divulging its message, but can't get off the ground. By the time the end of the film comes around, you've seen enough suffering by illegal immigrants and cows and not enough suffering by the corporation that's enabling the hurt.

The movie tries to tell people: STAY AWAY FROM FAST FOOD. I try to tell people: STAY AWAY FROM FAST FOOD NATION. Watch Super Size Me instead.
Super Reviewer
February 14, 2013
"We all have to eat a little sh** from time to time." Director Richard Linklater helms the political drama Fast Food Nation. Inspired by a non-fiction book, the film follows several intertwining stories related to the fast-food industry; from the immigrant worker to the corporate executive. However, the stories are a bit disjointed and don't have a strong connection to each other. Still, they're quite interesting and have some compelling characters. The ensemble cast features Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, and Avril Lavigne; who all deliver solid performances. While it's fairly entertaining, the politics of Fast Food Nation end up interfering with the storytelling.
Super Reviewer
March 13, 2007
Shine on me luminous today, and shine on past the tops of my shoulders
Show my feet the step ahead, stay hope on the gilded road to dawn
All the world must forget me now, as scattering ravens its memory flown
And bury my years in bone and ash, please spare not yesterday its tomb
Take me where the song needs singing, take me to the time I'm gone
Where dust of higher things float free, and boughs of ancient forests yawn
Of quiet excite in empty theaters, that merry shadow dance is mine
The truth of dreams is morrow's words, a verse away from being known
So as one concedes Imagine's game, its buoyant laughter wise and long
I leave my eyes and better lives, embalming pulse of showers loom
To walk this path of blinding summits, a thousand kings away from golden
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ April 27, 2014
"I'm gonna fast food nation, just-a wanna have some fun, yeah!". Sorry, Sammy Hagar, but I don't reckon that forced Montrose reference fits, because the process of fasting from food is doing the exact opposite of eating a lot, and I don't know if this film is all that much fun. By that, I mean both that this film is slow and that this take on the subject of criticizing fast food is a little heavier than "Super Size Me", so to speak (Ha-ha, obesity joke). This is one of those handful of moments in which a documentary is a little more entertaining than a drama that deals with the same subject, and I can't say I'm surprised, because it's hard to predict the entertainment value of a film directed by the guy who did both "School of Rock" and "Waking Life". I'd say that Richard Linklater is quite the diverse filmmaker, but he just can't seem to get out of Texas, or at least won't allow Ethan Hawke to do so, which is good, I reckon, because as annoyingly liberal as Austin can be, it's better than being stuck in bad parts of Los Angeles. Well, this film was at least just shot in a bunch of parts of Texas, where I doubt the film was actually set, because as proud of a Texan as Linklater is, you know that he would be promoting him some Whataburger, which would likely be more willing to lend its name for usage in this film than McDonald's. Yeah, McDonald's must simply be getting tired of everyone only getting mad at them, but hey, at least we get some decent films out of them getting the business about their business, including this one, which, like McDonald's, still has some problematic bits to its recipe.

In a couple of areas, the film is kind of all over the place, and it's certainly that when it comes to pacing, because as if Richard Linklater's directorial dryness doesn't stiffen momentum enough, Linklater's and Eric Schlosser's script goes dragged out by repetitious filler set pieces and even a couple excessive narrative layers which bloat focus to the point of losing consistency. The film ambitiously juggles various subplots involving the discovery of dark business secrets, the perspective of members of different stages in a questionable business process, and a few other affairs, and with all of that going on, the film ends up being pretty uneven, partly because it doesn't take much time to settle in on developing the various dramatic layers. No, the film is more thematic than dramatic, being kind of lacking in human depth as an ensemble character story, the fleshing out of which could have ironically made for a more thematically effective opus, the depths of which are undercut enough by an unevenness in tone. I suppose this is generally a continuation of Linklater's more dramatic movement following "Bad News Bears", but Linklater cannot completely wash away the lighter moments that, while often effective in livening things up, feel less like comic relief and more like jarring breaks in dramatic weight that is to ostensibly to be taken seriously, as reflected by Linklater's getting to be a little too thoughtful in his direction. As I said earlier, scripted pacing is problematic enough, but a bigger problem might very well be atmospheric pacing, as Linklater adopts his most thoughtful tone in quite some time, and often gets carried away with it, to the point of all-out dryness and, dare I say, dullness, which further thins down a sense of weight that is softened enough by unrealized characterization and whatnot, until Linklater tries too hard to drive home dramatic weight. Moments of slight tonal abrasiveness and obvious visuals inspired subtlety lapses which reflect ambition through all of the laziness, and such a sloppy formula goes challenged enough by genuine inspiration to save the film, but, well, barely. The final product flirts with mediocrity as an uneven drama that is too lacking in depth and entertainment value to be all that effective, but what the film does right is done very right, and that even goes further certain aesthetic touches.

As one of Richard Linklater's more dry endeavors in relatively recent years, this film is very unevenly exploratory of musicality, but that only makes it all the more special when post-rock band Friends of Dean Martinez delivers on a subtly dynamic and intricate score whose personal artistic value and atmospheric value do a lot to drive highlights in the film's aesthetic value, sustained throughout the final product by cinematography by Lee Daniel whose watery coloration and subtle lighting are handsomely unique and fitting to the grimy tone of the drama. Style is solid in this drama of limited substance, and when Linklater, as director, does indeed influence substance with style, in addition to controlled moments in generally questionable pacing, the film bites as genuinely intriguing, both thematically, and dramatically. Of course, if there are dramatic highlights here, they're perhaps mostly the doing, not of Linklater's performance, but of the performances found throughout a hefty, if oversized cast of esteemed talents whose convincingness, often mixed with solid dramatic layering, does a much finer job of selling the human factor of this drama than the storytelling. Depth is seriously lacking in a lot of ways to storytelling, and were it not for the worthy, if underwritten performances the final product could have perhaps sunk deeper into the brink of mediocrity, and yet, there are still those highlights in storytelling, and certainly value to subject matter. On paper, the film's story is of greater worth than its execution, as a drama that studies on various interpretations of morally challenging affairs, and as a deconstruction of the fast food industry and the problematic technical and human factors behind it, with a great potential for intrigue that is done only so much justice by Linklater and Eric Schlosser, as screenwriters. The script is overblown, undercooked and often even unsubtle, and that's a problem so big that it threatens the decency of the final product, which is actually secured partly by highlights in Linklater's and Schlosser's scripting, whose razor-sharp dialogue keeps up a degree of entertainment value during all of the dull chatter, and whose extensiveness as a showcase of worthy themes intrigues about as much as highlights in memorable characterization and plot structuring. The script has flat elements, in addition to elements that are all-out strong, as surely as Linklater's direction meets its own flat elements with strengths, enough to drive the final product as adequately effective, if not what it should have been and wants to be.

When the order is up, uneven pacing, focus and tone, serious underdevelopment and alternations between a bland lack of flare and some glaring subtlety lapses threaten even decency in the promising project, but through solid scoring and cinematography, thoughtful direction, strong performances and clever highlights in the scripted interpretation of dramatically and thematically worthy subject matter, mediocrity is challenged enough for "Fast Food Nation" to stand as a serviceably intriguing and sometimes thought-provoking, if often either overambitious or lazy portrait on the grimy depths and varying interpretations of the flawed fast food industry.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ November 17, 2006
This film feels strangely uninspired for a Linklater venture - it carries an aura of self-indulgence and rather clouded vision. Some of the points that the story brings across are potent and interesting, but it's a message movie with no concern for character development or plot structure. As a footnote, seeing Avril Lavigne deliver such an atrocious piece of "acting" was beyond annoying.
Super Reviewer
October 6, 2007
There are so many good things about this film: the story so realistically harsh, the actors giving solid performances; I just feel the final result was somehow muddled.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2006
A big ol' rant of a movie that starts out relatively engaging but soon dissolves into migrant melodrama, all with a note of condescension and a lack of purpose.
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