Review: The Bob’s Burgers Movie Is More of What Fans of the Show Already Appreciate

Less a feature film and more of an expanded episode of the television series (not a criticism, just an observation), The Bob’s Burgers Movie doesn’t grow to fit the big screen the way The Simpsons or South Park did. Instead, it hopes audiences will enjoy its carefully crafted, slightly more subtle, but still exceedingly funny brand of humor. While I don’t think it’s necessary to know the series in order to enjoy the movie, it wouldn’t hurt since the filmmakers don’t really go out of their way to introduce even the main characters beyond a joyful opening song.

After a prologue that reveals a murder was committed somewhere by the pier that operates at the end of the street where Bob’s Burgers (the eatery) is located, the story jumps ahead a few years to the present day when the Bob and Linda Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts, respectively) are preparing to meet with their bank loan officer to ask for an extension on their business loan payments. He tells them no, and they have one week to make their next payment, in addition to their regular rent payment to landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) and his devious brother Felix (Zach Galifianakis). And just as the Belchers commit to work harder to make their payment, a sinkhole opens up directly in front of their restaurant due to a broken water main, making it impossible for any customers to even access their front door. The hole is scheduled to be filled soon, that is until a skeleton is discovered buried in it and the hole becomes a crime scene.

To add to the intrigue, the body is identified as that of a carny who used to work at the pier, and Calvin Fischoeder is arrested for the crime. As the show often is, the rest of the film is divided into two main storylines: Bob and Linda do what they can to sell burgers to make their payments, including allowing their regular customer and friend Teddy (Larry Murphy) to build them a food cart to illegally sell burgers on the pier, eventually enraging the carnies working there. Meanwhile, kids Tina (Dan Mintz), Louise (Kristen Schaal), and Gene (Eugene Mirman) decide to do their part to save the restaurant by finding out who the real killer is in the hopes of getting Calvin to cut them some slack on their rent for a time. Their investigation also leads them to the pier where they discover all sorts of things, including a secret lair.

Having laid all of that out, the plots of The Bob’s Burgers Movie is really just an excuse to move us through the community that the Belchers live in and cross paths with any number of supporting players, voiced by the likes of Laura and Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, David Wain, Gary Cole, Nick Kroll, Stephanie Beatriz, Paul F. Tompkins, Jordan Peele, Nicole Byer, Rob Huebel, Jenny Slate, Paul Rudd, and Andy Kindler, most of whom are playing characters those familiar with the series should know. Eventually the two storylines converge, and we find out if the perpetual underdogs can win the day.

My only real issue with the film is that there’s nothing about the story or visual style that warrants putting it on the big screen. Some of the show’s best jokes are asides made by one of the kids or side characters, and when you move that style of humor onto a movie screen, many audience members will simply miss them (as the crowd I saw it with did). That being said, there are a handful of big sight gags that did win over the audience, as well as a smattering of musical numbers that elevate the proceedings too. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this film in the same way I love the series (I’ve seen every episode, many more than once), but I’m not sure what’s going on in The Bob’s Burger Movie justifies the big-screen treatment. Still, I’m thrilled to get a bonus-sized episode like this. The film does take advantage of its PG-13 rating to a certain degree, but I don’t think they get away with anything here that they couldn’t on network television. Fans of the show will likely be in a mild state of bliss, while newcomers may be left a bit perplexed but still entertained.

The film is now playing theatrically.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.