The Bob's Burgers Movie
'Bob's Burgers' makes the leap to cinemas — and the animated hit is just as delightful, offbeat and filled with glorious puns on the big screen.
May 24, 2022
Across its 12-season order to-date, the best episodes of Bob's Burgers have always resembled exactly what they should: a delicious serving of the meat-and-bread combination that shares the hit sitcom's name. There's a knack to a great burg — to a tastebud-thrilling, so-appetising-I-need-more-now example of this extremely accessible culinary art — and it's all about perfecting the absolute basics. No matter what else gets slotted in (and plenty of other ingredients can), every burger's staples should be the stars of the show. Indeed, a top-notch burg needn't be flashy. It definitely mustn't be overcomplicated, either. And, crucially, it should taste as comforting as wrapping your hands around its buns feels. On the small screen since 2011, Bob's Burgers has kept its version of that very recipe close to its animated, irreverent, gleefully offbeat heart.
Unsurprisingly, the show's creators whip up the same kind of dish for The Bob's Burgers Movie, too. It's a winning formula, and creator Loren Bouchard knows not to mess with it while taking his beloved characters to the big screen. Co-helming with the series' frequent supervising director Bernard Derriman, and co-writing with long-running producer Nora Smith, he experiments here and there — in filmic form, Bob's Burgers is a tad darker, for instance — but he also knows what keeps his customers a-coming. That'd be the goofy but extremely relatable Belcher clan, their everyday joys and struggles, and the cosy little world that sprawls around their yellow-hued Ocean Avenue burger joint up the road from seaside fairground Wonder Wharf. Bouchard also knows that if you make something well enough time after time — be it a burger or a TV show that's spawned a movie; both fit — it'll be warmly, reliably and welcomingly familiar rather than just another helping of the same old nosh.
With that in mind, it's a compliment to say that The Bob's Burgers Movie could've easily stayed on television, slotting in among the 238 episodes that precede it — but longer. Vitally, however, it doesn't ever simply feel like a few TV episodes simmered together. That can be the television-to-film curse, as Downton Abbey: A New Era demonstrated recently. Thankfully, as The Simpsons Movie and all three SpongeBob SquarePants films so far have also achieved, that isn't the case here. Instead, this super-sized stint in the Belcher family's company sports as much care, attention to detail, plot, gags, character-building moments, in-jokes, puns and musical numbers as a 102-minute portion of Bob's Burgers needs. It features the same colourful animation that works such a treat on TV, with added shadows for a cinematic feel, plus the lively voice acting that's the heart and soul of the show — but it's its own meal, and never merely four servings of fries passed off as something more substantial.
As always, the action centres on the film's namesake — the diner where patriarch Bob (H Jon Benjamin, Archer) sizzles up punningly named burgs to both make a living and live out his dream. And, as the show has covered frequently, financial woes mean that Bob and his wife Linda (John Roberts, Gravity Falls) have more to worry about than cooking, serving customers, and their kids Tina (Dan Mintz, Veep), Gene (Eugene Mirman, Flight of the Conchords) and Louise (Kristen Schaal, What We Do in the Shadows). Their solution: a burger, of course. But their bank manager isn't munching when they try to use food to grease their pleas for an extension on their loan. That mortgage also involves their restaurant equipment, leaving them out of business if they can't pay up. As their seven-day time limit to stump up the cash ticks by, Bob sweats over the grill and Linda oozes her usual optimism — only for a sinkhole to form literally at their door.
As trusty as Bob's Burgers gets, and still refreshingly committed to depicting the daily reality of its working-class characters, that above setup is the movie's buns. Layered inside are tomato, lettuce, cheese, pickle and beetroot, aka the narrative's well-balanced fillings. First comes a murder-mystery ensnaring the Belchers' eccentric landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline, Beauty and the Beast) and his brother Felix (Zach Galifianakis, Ron's Gone Wrong). Springing from there is Louise's determination to solve the crime to save the diner and prove she isn't a baby just because she wears a pink rabbit-eared hat. Then there's Tina's quest to make her crush Jimmy Jr (also voiced by Benjamin) her summer boyfriend; Gene's need to get The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, the family band, a gig at Wonder Wharf's Octa-Wharfiversary celebrations; and Bob and Linda's attempt to sell burgs at the amusement park using a barbecue on wheels MacGyvered up by number-one customer Teddy (Larry Murphy, The Venture Bros).
Meat-slinging, killer-hunting, carnival-frolicking mania and mayhem is the name of the game — dripping one-liners and puns, too, including the obligatory next-door store gag ("Sew You Think You Can Pants" is the film's offering) — and it all makes the leap to cinemas with well-oiled ease. So does the non-stop onslaught of quick gags, verbal and sight included; the extravagant musical numbers and action-flick-esque setpieces, which are all gorgeously choreographed even though they're animated; and the always-loose vibe that can entertainingly feel like the voice cast are just riffing. And, while it might've felt gratuitous, Bouchard and company's efforts to find space for plenty of the series' motley crew of neighbours and other supporting players is as natural as dipping chips in whatever sauce takes your fancy.
Also part of this animated gem: robot aliens who hate music, a village inhabited by Wonder Wharf workers called Carnieapolis, fantasy horse rides, creepy skeletons and an underground lair that Wes Anderson could've dreamt up. And, obviously, the overflowing affection for its oddball family that's always made all things Bob's Burgers as engaging as it is firmly remains on the menu as well — as eagerly sprinkled with fondness for the Belchers' many quirks, their routine woes, and their daily efforts to just get by, be happy, love each other and enjoy their modest existence. Without that, The Bob's Burgers Movie would've just been any old film. With it, it's exactly what viewers have adored for over a decade. This show doesn't need to be your regular dish to fall for its charms, though. Whether it's your first bite or your 239th, it's a delight.