After 12 seasons to the tune of 237 episodes, the Loren Bouchard-created animated family comedy Bob’s Burgers jumps from the small screen to theaters worldwide (no one tell Bob). The long-running series has already released four-albums-worth of music from its first six seasons, a comic, and, of course, a cookbook filled with not only a cornucopia of burger recipes but the appropriately puny names prominently displayed on their day as the daily special at Bob’s Burgers. Though talk of a feature-length film began in late 2017, causing some to think the resulting film would be of a certain low-grade quality no health inspector would approve for public consumption, the long road to get to now (filled with COVID-related and 20th Century Fox-buyout issues) is absolutely worth it. Directed by Bouchard and Bernard Derriman (Bob’s Burgers) with a script from Bouchard and Nora Smith (Bob’s Burgers), The Bob’s Burgers Movie is pure comfort food, accessible for guests having their first experience at this particular eatery as well as for well-established patrons. Full to the brim with unrelenting optimism, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is *ahem* well done with gentle charring, delicious side dishes, and a perfectly balanced soda mix comprised of toe-tapping musical numbers, trademark low stakes with high emotion, and plenty of heart.
Summer is on the horizon and each member of the Belcher family has big plans until a sinkhole appears right at the entrance of the restaurant, forcing it to close down right as Wonder Wharf is celebrating its 80th anniversary. While Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) work that particular problem, kids Tina, Gene, and Louise (Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, and Kristen Schaal) go on an adventure all their own that has the potential to restore things back to normal a little faster and maybe even give them all the summer of their dreams.
Considering the show has been on the air since 2011, it’s reasonable to think that the subsequent movie would be in-line with the 2007 The Simpsons Movie, feeling a little too late and a tad unnecessary. Though I’ve likely seen more episodes of The Simpsons than I’ve ever watched of Bob’s Burgers, that having more to do with my age at the time of release for both, I’d likely be more eager to watch the Bouchard-created program over any Simpsons episode simply because the Belcher family reminds me so much of my own. My wife, the ever-supportive pun-enthusiast Crystal (also EoM editor), possesses a brilliant mind and a love of the weird and wacky, embracing the unconventional as it is and not for what it could be. I would be Bob, constantly worried, ever feeling behind the ball, desperate to hope that things will work out, and happy to have just a small corner of the world to call my own. My kids, at their young ages, are a beautiful mix of Gene’s abstract musical inclinations and Louise’s fits of rage-induced daring. Time remains the only factor as to whether any of them will grow to be anything like Tina (#butts). It’s for this reason that I went to the screening for The Bob’s Burgers Movie even though I hadn’t watched an episode since cutting cable around 2017, which is around when I started focusing on film. I wanted some comfort, some escape, and to do it with something akin to my family.
This film delivers, or did for me, because, like the show, it feels small even when it’s at its biggest. Rather than use the litany of characters it possesses, the narrative stays small, focused primarily on the Belchers and a few of the colorful characters we know. But even when you don’t know who they are, the script provides exposition through reasonable means in order to give new patrons the basis they need to understand who’s who and why they matter. By keeping things fairly small character-wise, the script has more space to dig into the narrative’s central characters, providing additional space for exploration and play. Plus, a song and dance number…or several. Smartly, rather than try to learn something new about Bob or Linda, the focus is further narrowed on the kids, allowing the film as a whole to explore the optimism that fuels the Belcher clan through the still-maturing perspectives of Tina, Gene, and Louise. Without this, there would be no catalyst for core conflict Bob and Linda must overcome nor would there be any chance of a happy ending.
To me, what helps with the grounding of the film is the animation style. Rather than embrace 3D technology or otherwise change the appearance or structure of the Belcher world to fit the big screen, the entire film is designed with the same 2D animation aesthetic that informs the series. Handled by Bento Box Animation, LLC, the visual style of The Bob’s Burgers Movie possesses maybe a hint more dynamism than the regular program, but nothing too unexpected or out of place. Audiences still receive the same lovely depth of field of the series and the same realistic rules of physicality that make the series grounded, just with the specific artistic perspective that’s been the visual style for 12 seasons. Because of this, to some, this’ll feel like the movie is just an extended episode. To a degree, this is accurate; yet, frankly, they’re able to do a lot more visually and narratively through a feature-length production than would be capable in a single episode.
If one were to cry foul on anything, it’s that the narrative breaks little new ground. This is an adventure that occurs because of opportunity (a feature film), rather than creating any sort of substantive change that may impact the series. But it doesn’t have to, either. This film is like a burger itself: when made with care and the proper ingredients, it feels like a feast. Doesn’t even need the most expensive ingredients, it just needs care in the selection, craft in the kitchen, and loads of love (even without condiments and sides). It’s because of this that I found myself tearing up, hearing my wife’s voice through Linda (though pitchier) as she bolstered Bob’s spirits and mine when Bob noticed Linda’s dwindling positivity. The Belchers are representative of the kind of family everyone wants, even if they initially imagine themselves possibly richer or with some other shallow preference, because the Belchers love with their whole selves, whether they fully understand or not. This is an adventure that’s wholesome, soulfully nutritious, and satisfying.
In theaters May 27th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official 20th Century Studio The Bob’s Burgers Movie webpage.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.