Fast Food Nation

2006

Fast Food Nation

Critics Consensus

Despite some fine performances and memorable scenes, Fast Food Nation is more effective as Eric Schlosser's eye-opening non-fiction book than as Richard Linklater's fictionalized, mostly punchless movie.

50%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 149

42%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 62,870
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Movie Info

Inspired by author Eric Schlosser's New York Times best-seller of the same name, director Richard Linklater's ensemble drama examines the health issues and social consequences of America's love affair with fast food and features an all-star cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, and Luis Guzman. Mickey's is the most popular fast-food chain in America, and The Big One is the top-selling burger that put them on the map. When the higher-ups at Mickey's corporate offices learn that the frozen meat patties used to make the wildly popular burger have somehow been tainted with contaminated meat, they send marketing executive Don Henderson (Kinnear) on an urgent mission to ensure quality control and find out precisely how their product became compromised. It's a long way from the Southern California boardroom to the immigrant slaughterhouses, though, and the further Henderson works his way through the bustling feedlots and toward the ubiquitous restaurant sites that have become a staple of modern culture, the more he begins to realize just how dangerous convenience can become when it leads to blissfully ignorant complacency. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Fast Food Nation

All Critics (149) | Top Critics (48)

  • [An] angry and persuasive piece of agitprop...

    Jan 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Avril Lavigne even pops up to rail against deforestation. Who knew she could pronounce it?

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • Though it may well make you vow never to eat a burger again, the film never really holds itself together.

    May 4, 2007 | Rating: 2/5
  • This movie has taken a firebrand book and turned it into a whingeing piece of defeatism.

    May 4, 2007 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • Ultimately, Fast Food Nation is preaching to the converted.

    May 4, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Rather like a fungus-based meat substitute, this film feels as though it's good for you, but actually there are few lasting benefits.

    May 1, 2007 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Fast Food Nation

  • Apr 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
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 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.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 02, 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.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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