‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ review: The Emmy-winning show is a gag a minute blast, makes a triumphant leap to film [Grade: B+]
Like most television shows, it took Bob’s Burgers a few episodes to get cooking. Once it did, it became a huge critical hit, receiving Emmy nominations for Outstanding Animated Program for every season after its first, and winning twice. While it’s impressive for any show to run for over a decade, let alone maintain a high level of critical acclaim for that long, the show has seen its viewership decline pretty steadily, making the existence of The Bob’s Burgers Movie something of a mystery. Even The Simpsons Movie began development when the show was still averaging over 10 million viewers an episode, a number Bob’s Burgers has never hit. Putting something for such a niche audience exclusively in theaters is a pretty big risk for 20th Century Studios (and under the banner of The Walt Disney Company), especially given the cost of producing an animated feature. But, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is good enough to be enjoyed by anyone, even if they’ve never seen a single episode of the show.
Bob and Linda Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts, respectively) operate a small burger joint in a seaside town a block away from a wharf with a small amusement park. Finances are tight, and the bank is giving them a week to make their loan payment before repossessing their restaurant equipment. Linda, ever the optimist, believes it will all work out, but then a water main break creates a giant sinkhole right in front of their building. To make matters worse, their children Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) discover a dead body in the sinkhole. When their landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) is arrested for the murder before giving the family a direct answer about extending the due date for their rent, the Belchers find themselves with only a few days to both sell enough burgers to make their loan payment and prove Mr. Fischoeder’s innocence.
As any good burger maker knows, the meat is important, but the condiments are what really give the burger personality and flavor. The film’s plot is a solid base, but it’s the comic sensibility of Bob’s Burgers show creator Loren Bouchard that keeps the movie as consistently entertaining as it is. Practically every frame contains at least one joke or visual gag, whether it’s Bob’s punny name for the special of the day or a piece of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background character business. No matter what kind of comedy you prefer, it’s here, and that generosity towards the audience can be felt throughout. It’s clear from the start that while there’s certainly plenty here for the show’s biggest fans, there’s no barrier for entry – Bouchard and co-screenwriter Nora Smith want to make sure that everyone enjoys themselves, and they will do just about anything to make sure of that (including throwing in a few delightful original songs). The distinctive character design and indelible voice performances help with this – even if you don’t know these characters, you understand what kind of people they are immediately – but the wide variety of comedic styles on display will certainly grab anyone who might think the show looks too “weird” or “silly.” There’s some sophisticated satire in how the obscenely wealthy Fischoeder and his brother Felix (Zach Galifianakis) are presented and contrasted with the Belchers, as well as plenty of smart character-based comedy for each member of the Belcher family.
There’s still plenty of weird silliness to go around – it wouldn’t be a Bob’s Burgers movie if there wasn’t – but the sheer amount of jokes means that if you don’t vibe with that, there will be something else to make you laugh if you give it a minute. Plus, there’s a strong sense of compassion for all of the characters that grounds that silliness in something warm and real. This is the thing that puts The Bob’s Burgers Movie a cut above other animated films: It understands that humor works best when it comes from the characters and situations, not from a timely reference or a well-timed fart (although it isn’t above deploying either of those things if the moment calls for it). Working on the show for so many years has given everyone involved a deep understanding of who these characters are and how their world works, and every moment is constructed with the utmost care to communicate that to the audience. Because of this, even if you’re unfamiliar with the show, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is still very enjoyable, the kind of movie that will keep you chuckling as you escape the real world for a little while.
20th Century Studios and the Walt Disney Company will release The Bob’s Burgers Movie in U.S. theaters on May 27, 2022.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios