A Double-Sized Episode With Extra Stakes And Extra Songs, But That’s Okay
When an animated TV sitcom makes the leap to the big screen, there are always certain expectations it has to fulfill. Will the fans love it? Will general audiences love it? Will it justify a two-hour runtime and bigger budget? Many movies answer these questions with flashy celebrity cameos or fancy technical gimmickry. But “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” forgoes all of this in favor of sticking with the core recipe that made the animated show such a major hit. And sometimes, simpler is better.
Created by Loren Bouchard in 2011, “Bob’s Burgers” centers on the Belcher family — the pessimistic Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), the happy-go-lucky Linda (John Roberts), and their three children Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) — as they run the titular hamburger restaurant and get into all kinds of silly sitcom shenanigans. The members of the family, of course, all have their different quirks: Bob is constantly exasperated and upset, Linda is enthusiastic to the point of being unreasonable, Tina is a socially awkward writer of erotic friend fiction, Gene is a music-loving weirdo, and Louise is a possible sociopath who never takes off her pink bunny ears. Adding to their offbeat personalities is the fact that two of the female characters (Linda and Tina) are played by deep-voiced men.
But what makes Bob’s Burgers stand out among the rest of the animated sitcom crowd is how good-natured it is. The Belcher family might get themselves into ridiculous or cringe-worthy situations, but it’s clear that at the end of the day, they all love each other and would rally behind one other no matter what. That wholesome spirit is brought over tenfold in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.”
Looks like repossession’s back on the menu, boys
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which Bouchard co-writes and co-directs with Bernard Derriman, follows the Belcher family as they find themselves in their direst straits yet. If Bob and Linda can’t pay off their loans in seven days, their store will be repossessed. But any chance of earning enough money in time goes kaput when a ruptured water main creates a sinkhole right in front of Bob’s Burgers, blocking their entrance right at the start of the summer season. Even worse! Louise discovers the skeleton of a murdered man at the bottom of the sinkhole. Cue: a montage of Bob making his signature depressed groan for a full minute.
But that’s not the only crisis the Belcher family is dealing with. Tina is determined to tell her longtime crush Jimmy Jr. (also voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) about her true feelings, but is crippled with fear that he’ll reject her. Gene is determined to get his band a spot at Wonder Wharf’s summer show and thinks his napkin-holder instrument should do the trick — even if it makes everyone’s teeth hurt when he plays it. And Louise’s school rivals called her — gasp! — a baby. But all the Belcher kids’ petty problems get pushed aside (at least for the moment, these are life-threatening situations, folks) when Louise overhears their parents talking about the Bob’s Burgers’ money problems, and becomes determined to help them. She enlists a very reluctant Tina and a very clueless Gene (but isn’t he always?) to help her solve the mystery of the murdered man.
The mystery meat
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” raises the stakes immensely from the show’s very low-key adventures, but never loses its silly, absurdist spirit. So while Louise, Tina, and Gene are off questioning carnies and investigating the local billionaire, there’s still that sense of fun to it all — cutting through a moment of tension with a silly slapstick gag, or a hilarious one-liner from Gene. And “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” never tries to take itself too seriously, even if the film opens with a dramatic, rain-soaked scene where two figures fight in shadows on the wharf, with only the unblinking eyes of the carnival’s stuffed animals as witnesses, like something out of a noir.
It’s a credit to the show’s resilient nature that it can take on and shed genres with ease, jumping from musical (there are a lot of musical sequences, and they’re a joy to watch every time), to “Scooby-Doo”-style mystery, to fantasy, to noir. And of course, the humor never lags throughout, whether it be the miserable existential comedy that is Bob’s every line, the goofy gag comedy of Linda wearing a burger suit with a bikini on top, or the absurd anti-comedy of Tina and her obsession with butts.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is a little overlong. It takes a while for the plot to kick in, and by the time it does, it drags out the conflict, heightening the stakes to ludicrous degrees. And while it could’ve just been an episode of the show, it justifies its existence with its surplus of joyful musical songs and its surprisingly dark turns — which really only emerge in the last half hour of the movie. But mostly, it justifies itself by reaffirming why we always come back to the Belcher family. They’re the sweet, emotional core of the movie, the meat of this mystery burger that we want to order over and over again. Now if you excuse us, it’s time to write some erotic friend fiction about “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.”
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10