The Bob’s Burgers Movie
Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman
Written by Loren Bouchard, Jim Dauterive and Nora Smith
Featuring the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts and Kristen Schaal
Classification PG; 102 minutes
Opens in theatres May 27
I’m not sure my mind can process the fact that there are, so far, 237 episodes of Bob’s Burgers in existence – it seems like just yesterday that the eccentric animated Fox sitcom was challenging The Simpsons and Family Guy for the prime-time cartoon throne. (I refuse to look up how many episodes exist of those two shows, for fear of it making me feel on the precipice of death.)
While I’ve dipped in and out of Bob’s Burgers since its premiere in 2011, whenever I do catch it, creator Loren Bouchard’s series still feels as fresh and madcap-level energetic as ever – as if its writers’ room was encased in the comedic amber of gold-standard Simpsons Season Five. Why not award it a feature-length movie? It took The Simpsons 18 seasons to get to the big screen; I’m fine with Bob’s getting there after a mere 12.
While The Bob’s Burgers Movie is designed for long-time fans – complete with narrative callbacks, recurring side characters, and more retail signage puns to fill Bob’s burger-of-the-day chalkboard from here till eterni-brie – there is enough gentle comedy, clever music and emotionally effective beats to welcome complete newbies, too.
The short story: In an unnamed seaside community, the Belcher family runs a humble diner perpetually on the verge of closure. There is cook/patriarch Bob (H. Jon Benjamin, a master of sand-dry deadpan and an old collaborator of Bouchard from his jankier Home Movies days), mom Linda (John Roberts; yes, not a woman), eldest daughter Tina (Dan Mintz; yes, also not a woman), middle son Gene (Eugene Mirman) and youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal). Each family member is delightfully off in their own way – Tina fantasizes about sexy zombie boys, Gene is equally passionate about terrible music and, worse, flatulence, Louise might be a sociopath – but together they’re lovably quippy characters with just as many layers as Homer’s clan (and a refreshing independence from the pop-culture riff-y-ness of Family Guy).
The film, directed by Bouchard along with regular series helmer Bernard Derriman, doesn’t send the Belchers to space or anything so high-concept. Instead, the family gets involved in a twisty but believable murder-mystery that threatens both their business and the entire town. It is a small story told with slightly greater ambition than the small-screen affords. The animation is slicker, the original-songs budget more generous (the movie is, like the series, half-comedy and half-musical), and the guest stars are plentiful. It is ideal lazy summer Saturday matinee viewing.
Speaking of: The Bob’s Burgers Movie is, unlike a whack of other recent Disney productions, getting a theatrical release instead of being pumped straight into the veins of Disney+ subscribers. Perhaps that’s due to it being developed by 20th Century Fox prior to the studio being acquired by Disney. Perhaps it’s because the Mouse House feels this coming weekend needs some Top Gun: Maverick counterprogramming. Perhaps the reason is more Byzantine, or more boring, than the speculation above.
Whatever the case, I’m glad relatively low-stakes animation is getting its chance to return to the multiplex. We should be so lucky to get another Bob’s Burgers Movie by Season 24.
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