CAST: H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Larry Murphy, Kevin Kline, Zach Galifianakis, David Wain, Sam Seder, Aziz Ansari, David Herman, Gary Cole, Brian Huskey, Jenny Slate, Ron Lynch, Stephanie Beatriz
RUNNING TIME: 102 mins
BASICALLY…: When a sinkhole threatens their business, the Belcher family must find a way to stay open…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
While the likes of The Simpsons and Family Guy continue to decline in quality as they increasingly favour mean-spiritedness over actual laughs, fellow adult animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers has managed to remain consistent over the initial twelve seasons it’s been on air, with not just a stronger focus on the eccentric family unit of the Belchers, but also a genuinely sweet and wholesome tone that neatly balances its hilarious depiction of a working-class business overrun by a universe of passive-aggression.
It is also a show that doesn’t exactly cry out for a big-screen movie adaptation, given its restricted cast of characters and the contained environment that the series rarely ventures outside of, but The Bob’s Burgers Movie manages to achieve the impossible and make its relatively lo-fi grounded nature feel surprisingly cinematic, while also retaining its trademark irreverent humour and genuine good-heartedness. Fans of the show will certainly get a lot out of it, and even those unfamiliar with Bob’s Burgers to begin with will find this an amusing gateway into this odd and grounded world.
As in the show, the film revolves around the Belcher family – Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), Linda (John Roberts), and their three kids Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Louise (Kristen Schaal) – and their titular burger restaurant, which is in danger of going under when the bank denies their loan extension and gives them seven days to pay up or face closure. The matter is complicated further when a giant sinkhole erupts in front of the restaurant, denying customer access inside and losing them even further business. While Bob and Linda try to find a way to stay afloat, Louise – in an attempt to prove her bravery – discovers a corpse in the sinkhole that reignites a murder mystery which draws Bob’s wealthy landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) into the firing line. The kids then set out to solve the mystery and also save the restaurant in the process.
Fans of the show will instantly recognise all of the traits that are on display in this film, from the rapid-fire dialogue that generates an endless amount of zingers, to sub-plots involving Gene exploring his own musical identity and Tina wanting to make her aloof classmate Jimmy Jr. (also H. Jon Benjamin) her summer boyfriend, to the spontaneous musical numbers which neatly compliment the eclectic and uncynical musical score. It all works as well here as it does on the show, partly because it’s co-directed and co-written by series creator Loren Bouchard who clearly knows this world and its characters inside and out, and has such an affection for it all that it never comes across as a pale imitation or degradation of how the show originally started out. The animation has also been given a slight upgrade, with more detailed textures and lighting that can only be possible with a slightly higher budget than normal, and it’s vibrant to look at because it’s so colourful and interesting, not to mention the fact that it’s pretty awesome seeing a 2D animated film on the big screen again. Most importantly, though, the film really captures the warm spirit of the show almost down to a tee, and gives you everything you’d expect out of a Bob’s Burgers movie if you’ve stuck with it over all these years.
Newcomers shouldn’t worry too much either, for while some gags do require at least some partial knowledge of the show beforehand, it’s not like you’ll be completely lost upon entering this world for the first time, as it gets you up to speed with these characters and their quirky, endlessly likeable personas pretty quickly. Even if you’ve never encountered such oddball characters like the confident musical prodigy Gene or the restaurant’s most frequent patron Teddy (Larry Murphy) before, you’ll still find yourself laughing at all their witty banter and clashing personalities, as well as rooting for their respective arcs to turn out okay by the end. As in the show, The Bob’s Burgers Movie does a strong job at making you really enjoy spending time with these characters and seeing them interact with this world that is certainly out to get them on regular occasions, but crucially they never resort to full-on cynicism or unpleasant shock humour like other adult animated shows have done lately. These characters, especially the ever-optimistic Linda, always find the bright spots in life and do their best (often to a fault) to project their positivity onto others, making them such endearing characters to follow and spend some quality time with.
However, the transition from television sitcom to feature-length movie isn’t always smooth, as is the case with most other TV-to-film adaptations. It is one of those situations where the plot feels like a stretched-out episode of the show, and often you can spot where they inserted a bunch of filler in order to pad it out to roughly 100 minutes; even then, you could easily lose ten of those minutes (Tina’s sub-plot, though certainly keeping in her boy-crazy character, doesn’t really feel necessary next to the other plots happening at the same time) and it might seem a little tighter. The central murder mystery is also a little easy to figure out, which sounds dumb to say about an animated movie that isn’t taking everything so seriously, but perhaps more could have been done to make the eventual reveal just a little less obvious for the casual viewer.
Beyond the few bumps along the way, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a fine adaptation of the show, containing enough material to please long-time fans as well as serving as a formidable and funny introduction to those who may never have even seen an episode. The whole series is streaming now on Disney+, so I highly recommend you go and watch at least some episodes before seeing this movie (hint: it gets better beyond the first season), but even if you can’t be bothered to do your homework, you’ll still find plenty to chew on here.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a mostly strong feature adaptation of the animated sitcom, retaining its trademark irreverent humour and wholesome nature surrounding its oddball but endlessly likeable characters, though some structural problems that come with the TV-to-movie transition show some occasional bumps in the road.