The Bob’s Burger’s Movie is fitfully amusing but wholly unnecessary, its translation to a long form and the big screen proving distinctly underwhelming.
Fox Television’s long-running animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers concerns the hapless but ultimately optimistic Belcher clan, who live in an apartment above the titular burger restaurant they own and run in an unnamed East Coast community. Dad Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) tends to be more stressed and anxiety-ridden, with wife Linda (John Roberts) providing the sunny and hopeful foil to his bouts of stubbornness. Tina (Dan Mintz) is the eldest of the three children and, like many 13-year-olds before her, is prone to social awkwardness and numerous insecurities. Gene (Eugene Mirman), the lone son and middle child, is free-spirited and easily distracted, proving the most easygoing of the family. And finally there’s Louise (Kristen Schaal), the mischievous one whose volatile temper can sometimes get the better of her, an adorable pink hat with bunny ears ironically and forever plopped atop her head. Much like another animated Fox staple, the truly never-ending The Simpsons, the Belcher family make their way to the big screen with the aptly titled The Bob’s Burgers Movie, and much like the spin-off film for that aforementioned series, is both fitfully amusing and wholly unnecessary.
This refresher course might seem unnecessary — if you’re checking out the film version, you’re likely already fluent in the Bob’s Burgers universe, right? And yet, The Bob’s Burgers Movie seems to exist first and foremost as a half-assed introduction for those individuals who have never seen a single episode of the television series, focusing on an elaborate plot while providing little in the way of Easter eggs for loyal fans. It also only intermittently attempts to capture the core essence of the series itself, one which mines many of its laughs from a mixture of clever and groan-inducing puns and a genuine affection for its main protagonists, whose innate likeability stems largely from their relatable nature, even as their exploits can occasionally strain credibility — although more junior high schools should be mounting stage productions of both Die Hard and Working Girl. Even the inclination to accuse the movie of simply feeling like an elongated episode feels wholly inaccurate, as the Belcher’s find themselves in melodramatic territory that the series proper tends to eschew — or, at the very least, knowingly mocks. As the film opens, Bob and Linda prepare for a meeting at the local bank, seeking an extension on a business loan. With summer vacation looming large, Tina tries to muster the courage to ask out her unrequited crush, Jimmy Pesto, Jr., the son of the local Italian eatery proprietor and sworn enemy of Bob. (That Jimmy Sr. doesn’t even get a line of dialogue here is… odd). Gene, meanwhile, is attempting to snag a gig at the local amusement park’s summer showcase for his struggling band, The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, while Tina seeks to overcome an embarrassing incident on the playground where she was accused of being a B-word for refusing to remove her hat — that’s “baby,” by the way, which inspires comical gasps from all who hear it, children and adults alike. The sudden formation of a sinkhole in front of Bob’s storefront ultimately unearths the skeleton of a local murdered carnival worker, with the Belcher’s landlord, the supercilious Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), accused of the crime.
The majority of The Bob’s Burgers Movie proceeds to follow the adventures of the clan’s youngest members, as Tina spearheads a plan to uncover the identity of the true killer in an effort to save her family from destitution following the denial of that aforementioned loan and the appearance of a freakin’ sinkhole. The film certainly gets points for highlighting the economic struggles of a small-business owner, but so much time is devoted to the tired and ridiculous murder mystery that it drains quite a bit of fun out of the proceedings. Director and series creator Loren Bouchard — along with co-director Bernard Derriman — certainly takes advantage of both a bigger budget and a much larger Cinemascope canvas, the camera snaking its way through narrow streets and dark alleyways as it captures various high-speed car chases and the antics of its amateur sleuths. But Bob’s Burgers was never a series that needed action scenes or complex plotting to maintain audience interest; indeed, its modesty is the very thing that engenders such goodwill within the viewer. As is to be expected, there are a handful of funny bits peppered throughout, as well as a few laugh-out-loud jokes — the carnival workers live in a place called Carnopolis and eat Chili Con Carnie, a nice touch that captures the particular comedy of the show — but the pacing is completely off, making the 102-minute runtime feel like an eternity, especially in its languorous middle stretch. The Belchers deserve better than The Bob’s Burgers Movie, as do their loyal fans. Sometimes the small screen is more than big enough.