The Bob’s Burgers Movie debuts in theaters on May 27, 2022.
As Bob’s Burgers enters its 13th year, it takes the same detour as many successful animated shows do: a glorified episode released as a feature film. As these things often go, the bright colors have an uncanny shine, the contrast is turned up ever so slightly, and the stakes are, at once, both higher and absolutely sure to return to their weekly status quo. It’s precisely what you expect from this sort of exercise, only in the case of this particular movie spin-off, it’s rightfully a musical too, with a handful of sincere (and understandably out-of-tune) numbers featuring its central cast of voice actors, none of whom can sing, but all of whom give it that old college try. With mile-a-minute jokes that only occasionally outstay their welcome, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a mostly good time, and a decent way to spend an hour and 40 minutes in an air-conditioned theater as summer approaches.
Everybody’s favorite chin-less family is back (not that they ever left; the show’s 12th season concluded earlier this week) and they’re all functioning at their optimum. Patriarch fry cook Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) is as piratical, matter-of-fact, and anxious as ever, as the threat of a hefty loan payment looms. His wife, the ever-enthusiastic Linda (John Roberts), turns her words of support into bouncy, absurd musical asides about summer fun, as they prepare a meal for their loan agent in the hopes of an extension. Meanwhile, the three young Belcher kids are their typical selves, all turned up to 11. Naïve but gifted dilettante Gene (Eugene Mirman) strings together makeshift musical instruments from scraps around his parents’ restaurant — rubber bands, napkin holders, and the like — in the hopes of performing at a shoreside carnival. The devilishly sardonic 9-year-old Louise (Kristen Schaal) finally faces the fact that she’s far too old for her defining look (her pink bunny-ear hat), but she’s too insecure to shed her skin. And of course, posterior-obsessed fanfic scribe Tina (Dan Mintz) still pines for Jimmy Pesto Jr. (Benjamin), the lisping teenage dancer who she hopes will be her summer boyfriend.
Except for Louise’s new existential crisis, it’s a concentrated dose of a typical half-hour episode, only this time, the Belchers are thrust into turmoil when a sinkhole devastates the sidewalk right outside their burger joint, exposing the body of a carnival worker killed six years prior. It’s not quite as dark as it sounds; the reopened case is merely a wrench thrown into a premise in which their business is already threatened. With their storefront now an active crime scene, and their wealthy landlord Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) a prime suspect, they can neither make their loan payments nor negotiate lower rent. Things are, as usual, rather dire, but it’s Louise, the Belchers’ youngest, who kicks the plot into motion, both to solve the murder mystery, and to prove to her peers that she’s anything but the sheltered little girl that they perceive her to be.
With the show’s usually rapid-fire gags and double entendres in tow, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a mostly charming and inoffensive watch, with plenty of laughs courtesy of Mirman’s delightfully quirky Gene, a character who has no filter, and whose vast vocabulary eclipses his understanding of the words themselves. The film’s Broadway-style musical numbers complement him perfectly; at any moment, characters who break out into song are just here to have a good time, finesse be damned. That’s about as Bob’s Burgers as you can hope for (i.e. a show in which various characters’ passions are nurtured even when their talents are clearly lacking), because it’s as good-natured as a four-quadrant family movie can get. And sure, when practically every line is a joke, the ones that inevitably miss the mark are bound to feel twice as exhausting — there’s a reason the series works in half-hour doses, rather than something thrice as long — but they rarely detract from the momentum with which the conspiracy plot twists and winds, or the precision with which every scenario feels tailor-made for the comedy stylings of one character or another.
In a visual sense, The Bob’s Burgers Movie seems almost self-aware of how films of its nature tend to look. There are more shadows pasted onto the familiar hues from the television screen, but they’re used remarkably well; rather than its appearance feeling superficially “cinematic” (à la The Simpsons Movie, where everything looked a little sickly), there’s a tad more thought put into its use of light and darkness, what with the Belcher family and their business threatened more than ever before. For once, the quiet moments feel genuinely intimate. It’s hardly an aesthetic masterpiece, but it earns its keep as a big-screen adaptation of a cartoon sitcom, and all the expectations therein.
It continues to pad its runtime with gags even when the story grinds to a halt — but when the jokes are this funny, why make a mountain out of a molehill? It may not be able to sustain its character-centric elements all the way through, and it brings them home rather clunkily, but it’s so committed even to the stuff that doesn’t fully work that it ends up pleasantly worthwhile. Basically, it’s Bob’s Burgers in a nutshell.