I’m a fan of Bob’s Burgers. It took a while for it to hit me, but when it did, I dived in with a cannonball. It’s the music that did it – there are so many songs in the show that it’s difficult to keep track of them all.
Creator Loren Bouchard seems to live inside a Broadway theater, and his love of music that defines character is strong. It’s so strong that he spreads the love to another show, Central Park, which has even more songs than Bob’s Burgers, if that’s possible.
So when the opening song to the film started, I was happy, because I love these characters and seeing them on the big screen is a treat. Unfortunately, that is the last song we hear for a while. As the movie played, I realized that sometimes too much of something is not always a good thing.
And The Bob’s Burgers Movie, while charming and fun, feels too long to justify its story, and doesn’t feel “big” enough to justify seeing it in a theater right now, but if you are a fan, that may not matter to you.
But I wanted more songs. The fun of the show is seeing Gene riff on popular music, or seeing the family sing their way in and out of a problem, and while the show is not strictly a musical show, the opportunity for big animated numbers in a movie should have been too good to pass up. We get a couple, but not enough to make the transition from small to big screen particularly urgent.
And far too much of the story revolves around the Belcher’s landlord, Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), instead of the Belcher family. While I love Kline in the part, especially when they let him sing, Calvin as a character can be a bit grating, and when his family gets involved, it can be exhausting.
Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) has a problem – the bank won’t extend his business loan, and he’s also behind on the rent. He’s managed to make things work until now, but his luck’s just about run out. To make matters worse, a sinkhole has opened up right in front of the restaurant, denying people access on what is normally the busiest weekend of the year, Ocean Fest.
Even worse, a dead body is in the sinkhole — a former carny from the amusement park — and it looks like Calvin Fischoeder, their landlord, may be responsible. If Calvin did it, Bob can’t even ask his landlord for help as he would likely go to prison. Bob’s wife Linda (John Roberts) tries her best to help, but it seems that Bob’s Burgers is destined to close.
The Belcher kids — Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) — immediately step into action. Louise knows that Calvin didn’t commit this heinous crime, and to prove her bravery to her family and her school, Louise vows to find the real killer.
Can Bob save his restaurant? Can Gene write the one song that will bring him joy and success? Can Louise solve the crime? Can Tina finally get Jimmy Jr. (also H. Jon Benjamin) to be her boyfriend?
The songs — when we get them — are a lot of fun. Still, I was hoping for more. Directors Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman make the musical numbers seem epic and grandiose, but, again, there aren’t enough of them.
The animation fits well on the big screen, especially when we enter Louise’s fantasy sequences, but they’re also just as effective at home, I imagine. I also feel like there’s a missed opportunity with guest voices, but you can’t blame the creators for that too much – the film was being voiced during the pandemic, so getting a lot of voices may have been difficult. That also may be why we don’t get a bigger story.
Once the villain is revealed, it’s not earth-shattering, since you can pretty much see it coming. I do find it funny that the character of Jimmy Pesto, normally voiced by Jay Johnston, gets all his dialogue pulled, probably because Johnston was allegedly one of the participants of the Capitol insurrection. I guess Bob wins that feud after all.
If you’re a Bob’s Burgers fan and completist, you have to see the film, although I’m not sure if you have to see it in a theater or wait until it’s streaming in a few months. Your mileage may vary on that front.
But it’s not going to convince newbies to suddenly watch the show. It’s a super-sized episode, but it doesn’t break itself out of the show’s template and it doesn’t change anything for our beloved characters. Everyone is pretty much the same at the beginning as at the end.
If you are fine with seeing these characters do their thing as they do week after week, you’ll enjoy The Bob’s Burgers Movie. If you are hoping for something bigger in scope, this will likely not satisfy in that regard.
THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE REVIEW SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10 (IF YOU’RE A FAN); 5 OUT OF 10 (IF YOU’RE NOT)
Rated PG-13 for rude/suggestive material and language, the 20th Century Studios release will open in theaters on May 27.
Alan Cerny has been writing about film for more than 20 years, for such sites as Ain’t It Cool News, CHUD, Birth Movies Death, and ComingSoon. He is a member of the Houston Film Critics Society since 2011. STAR WARS biased. Steven Spielberg once called Alan a “very good writer” and Alan has the signed letter to prove it, so it must be true.