One of the most endearing television shows available right now is Loren Bouchard’s Bob’s Burgers. Like the titular restaurant (and the underdog family that runs it), the show has always struggled to keep going and yet still endures. Through each component, from the individual quirks of the lead characters to the absolutely wonderful musical numbers, the show has developed a cult following that keeps following this endlessly optimistic television show and refuses to let it go. When a theatrical release was announced I was ecstatic, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the film for two years, and crossing that desert was an ordeal.
It’s now here, and the big screen experience was worth the wait.
While somehow feeling like a lengthy episode of the television show and somehow not overstaying its welcome, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a shining example of how to transition from small to silver screen. This could have easily overstepped its bounds, a feat that few of these types of animated films can pull off. Bouchard has made the right call in going bigger, but only slightly. It’s about the family, but it doesn’t have to make the family survive an epic, apocalyptic situation. This film chooses to go with something far more relateable – a family running a struggling business, afraid they may not be able to catch up on their loan payments.
That’s the conflict that Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) is up against. He’s behind on payments for his business loan and his landlord is only giving him a “maybe” on skipping rent for the month. Bob’s a defeatist who occasionally still remembers that he used to be a dreamer, held up emotionally by his wife Linda (John Roberts) and her completely insane amount of enthusiastic optimism. They employ their children in the restaurant, but with summer approaching the kids have their own plans. Gene (Eugene Mirman) is worried that his band, The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, won’t get to headline a summer festival at the wharf. Tina (Dan Mintz) is boy crazy, focused mostly on schoolmate Jimmy Pesto, Jr. (H. Jon Benjamin) and his butt in them jeans. Louise (Kristen Shcaal) is, perhaps, the most relatable in her existential dread over the things in her life that make her feel comforted being seen as childish. When a sinkhole opens in front of the restaurant, essentially killing Bob’s chance to earn enough money to settle his debt. He and Linda work with Bob’s self-proclaimed best friend Teddy (Larry Murphy voicing the character I consider to be the show’s MVP) to save the restaurant while the kids work to discover who is responsible for the dead body found in the hole before their rich landlord, Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), takes the fall for it.
This may seem like a lot (and it is), but the film feels like a breezy double episode when it is, in fact, over an hour and forty minutes long. The number of callbacks could be intimidating to neophytes in the audience, but no one needs to fear as the film is happy to ease you into this large world that has been running for thirteen years. Long-standing characters are, graciously, merely treated as family friends in a way that shouldn’t be too confusing while still giving fans a moment to giggle at.
And there are giggles aplenty. Much of the humor is mined from real emotion, a strong point that has allowed the show to endure this long. Bob’s reaction to potentially losing his business is hilarious, but…you’d react the same way. Tina’s going through puberty and quite frightened that her crush will never reciprocate, a feeling that every single viewer should know quite well (she’s also obsessed with butts and it is hilarious). Louise, meanwhile, simply struggles to feel comfortable with herself in a way that I get (we’ve all got something we love that might be childish to others, but it brings us a sense of stability). Each of these things is maddeningly funny to watch even as it gets under our skin and reminds us of our own existential turmoil, whether it be a memory or a current situation.
Part of the charm in delivering these ideas is the fun amount of musical numbers, something the show has utilized since season one. While the film doesn’t have the guts to go full-on into Hollywood musical territory (that would be too far outside of its comfort zone, reminding us yet again that Louise is truly the main character of this franchise), it manages to have a good time with unbridled joy in its performances. Few animated films go this direction outside of Disney, but I’m glad to see that the show can translate in this way and still manage to pull it off.
This one’s mostly going to be for people already familiar with the show. Still, I hope you all give this little joy a shot. It’s like Bob’s restaurant in that way, standing alone without much hope of making a big splash but still lovingly crafted anyway. Grill yourself up a burger, have a beer, and then run on down to The Bob’s Burgers Movie if you want to have a lovely time.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is currently in theatres.