It seems obligatory that a show as successful as Bob’s Burgers was due for a movie. But the question arises if the animated sitcom is suited for the big screen. The working-class hijinks of the Belcher family and their restaurant work well enough on television. In terms of making the leap to a theatrical film, there’s certainly faithfulness but not much more than the smirks and giggles that you’d get from watching it at home.
There’s certainly a bigger story at play with the Belchers facing their biggest challenge yet. With a sinkhole in the road, a loan payment unpaid, and a dead body discovered, the summer is looking rather rocky for the family. It’s nothing quite so apocalyptic as The Simpsons Movie but it’s enough to warrant a longer narrative. There’s also just enough for every character’s motivation so they don’t feel wasted in such a plot.
It’s easy enough to relate to the weary and worrisome Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), stressing out over potentially losing his business again with yet another issue regarding money. His straight-man routine plays beautifully off of the endlessly bubbly nature of his wife Linda (John Roberts). They make for a great couple and they’re a lot of fun to watch, whether they’re in a duet or trying to run an unlicensed burger cart.
At the same time, the Belcher kids have their own hopes and musical numbers. Tina (Dan Mintz) has big plans for summer with her attempts at furthering her relationship with her crush Jimmy. Gene (Eugene Mirman) wants to hit the top of the charts with his new instrument involving spoons and a napkin holder. Louise (Kristen Schaal) can’t stand being called a baby and is struggling to find a way to prove she is growing up and not down. They’ll try to do all of these things and solve a murder before summer even starts.
Watching the film felt like watching a handful of special episodes. It’s no end-of-the-world plot but it’s close enough that it feels like the family may drift financially and emotionally. The narrative is given a bit more heart than the show with a heavier focus on the connection between the Belchers. There’s the standard moment where all hope feels lost and there’s a rather touching admittance to the enduring love of parents and kids. It’s one of the highlights that seemed to mostly be missing from a show that tends to favor cynism.
One can’t help but feel there are a bit of missed opportunities for the usage of such an expansive collection of characters. The mystery already relies on viewers being aware of the backstories behind a few key characters so why not use them all? It would certainly make for a larger selection of suspects. The simplified lineup leads to a rather standard and predictable mystery, decently suited for the show but feels lacking for a film.
It’s still a bit of a treat to hear some bouncier musical numbers and fluid animation that really shows off the full features of Toonboom Harmony. Fans of the show will surely dig the jump in production values, although it did take some getting used to for watching these simplified pear-shaped characters become more active and wiry. Watching the usually docile Bob bob to the beat took some getting used to but eventually, the charm of the absurd lyrics work their magic.
The funny antics were always amusing but rarely veered out of the show’s comfort zone. The retro-scripting banter was silly enough to warrant watching the show or even just having it in the background. I’m not trying to suggest that the film go so daring as slinging some profanity or baring some nudity, although it certainly would be a surprise. But the majority of the film is mostly chuckles and few laughs.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie matches the wit of the show even if it doesn’t do much more as a theatrical film. Fans of the series will surely appreciate the uptick in musical numbers and dazzling animation. The film itself was a pleasing continuance of this breakout animated sitcom in an ever-competitive medium but only goes so far, presenting an undercooked comedy that feels very reflective of Bob’s business: sweetly enduringly yet always one step behind.