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Honestly? It’s surprising that it has taken this long to get a Bob’s Burgers movie. Since the franchise started in 2011, it has pretty much been one of the go-to examples of adult animation that doesn’t heavily rely on raunchy humor, ultra-violence, shock jock sensibilities, and everything else that has given adult animation a bad reputation. Sure, by now, we have had shows like Arcane, Primal, and Legends of Vox Machina show that there can have varied results with adult animation, but since we are still going to get something like the upcoming Farzar, the best you can do is try to craft an experience that can make yourself stand out from the rest in the adult animation genre. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and yes, you could argue that the creators of the other similar shows Central Park and The Great North feel too akin to Bob’s Burgers, but they tend to be executed in different enough ways to still feel refreshing, despite the common spirit and writing of the three shows. Now then, how do you take a show like Bob’s Burgers with a distinct flow that differs from something like The Simpsons and turn it into a movie? Well, you do so with flying colors!
The film is directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman, written by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, and produced by Bento Box Entertainment, Wilo Productions, and 20th Century Animation. We join the ever-lovable Belcher family that includes Bob Belcher, voiced by H. John Benjamin, Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman as Gene Belcher, John Roberts as Linda Belcher, and Kristen Schaal as Louise Belcher, as they begin to prepare for summer. This includes getting their loan handled, Tina finally asking Jimmy Pesto to be her summertime boyfriend, Gene getting his new instrument ready for a summertime performance, and Louise going through some personal self-discovery matters. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Tina can’t talk to Jimmy Pesto Jr, the bank declines the loan situation, and Louise, worst of all, is called a baby. They try to make all of the things go well for the four of them until a huge pothole opens up right in front of the restaurant that threatens to shut down Bob’s Burgers. Can the family figure out what’s going on? Why was a dead body found deep in the hole? Who is exactly behind all of this?
So, we have yet another animated show getting the film treatment, but what actually works about this flick? Well, while it does have a lot of those elements that you see in franchise films with the bigger budget for the visuals, and maybe a celebrity here or there to voice the characters, the overall size of the story and scale of the film is small. It’s actually refreshing, because the film literally takes place in only a few blocks of the show’s setting. No plot of the family traveling the world or the government showing interest in this one town for some reason, or an alien invasion. It’s a story about the parents finding a way to save their home and restaurant, Louise’s arc of overcoming her fears, Tina wanting to finally ask out her crush, and Eugene wanting to be the big pop star hit at the carnival. Of course, two of these plots take up most of the run time, but the fact they were able to make this all work and be able to pack so much charm and wit into the writing makes for an extremely entertaining experience. Even if it isn’t a full-blown musical, the few tunes they do have are executed in a way to add substance to the overall story and perfectly encapsulate what the characters are going for. The world and story might be small, but to everyone involved in the film’s plot, it’s world-ending levels big. That’s the beauty of the film. They did some major additions to the overall vibe of the show to make it work on the big screen, but they also kept the spirit of the show and what made it special at its core. You don’t usually get that with many films based on TV shows.
On the animation and technical side of things, the film does look pretty good! It’s definitely a more fluid take on the characters that you should expect with film adaptations. While there are a few points where you can tell there are 2D characters walking alongside CGI backgrounds that result in some wonky compositing, it’s very rare and the visuals are pretty consistent. The designs were very approachable and making them look appealing and filled with the appeal was never going to be a problem for this show’s visuals. What’s also nice about the animation is that everyone, even during the big musical sequences, doesn’t act out of place or move like they are from a Disney Fantasia. Everyone dances like how normal people do. The Lucky Ducks sequence is a great example of this where it’s still well-choreographed, but it has its Bob’s Burgers appeal in how it looks. Voice cast-wise, while there are some big names, the real draw is always going to be the main cast of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, and Eugene Mirman. The rest of the cast is also perfect, with Larry Murphy as the Belcher’s lovable patron and friend, Teddy, Kevin Kline as the detached landlord Calvin and his brother Felix, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of other actors reprising or playing minor roles that include Jordan Peele, Paul F. Tompkins, Stephanie Beatriz, and Jenny Slate, to name a few. The music by John Dylan Keith and Loren Bouchard is great and has the small town charm of the show, and the musical numbers by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith are limited with only four songs, but the three that are available on the soundtrack have a whimsy about them that definitely reminds me of something from The Muppets. Even with everyone basically being voice actors/actors first, they do carry the tunes well! It’s just another part of the appeal of the franchise.
Now, one of the few criticisms I have is that the film does tend to focus more on Bob and Linda, and Louise’s story arcs than Tina and Eugene’s story arcs. Not that it’s a bad thing due to how the former three characters have a much more substantial story going on saving the restaurant and overcoming personal fears, but Tina gets the school crush arc and Eugene just wants to perform at the festival. Not that those two plots are bad, but there isn’t much to them. The film also gets a little long at 100 minutes? Personally, the film would have felt a little tighter around 90 minutes, but the fact that there is so much humor from the dialogue to visual gags shoved into each scene, that it almost fixes the pacing issues in the third act. Even by this point, everyone knows who the villain is, and while he has a few funny moments, he’s partly forgettable. Just a small road bump to get to the Belchers.
While it may be more of what you love about the franchise, it shows that this franchise can do films, and if they would like to do more in the future, then that would be swell. It’s a fun, breezy, and delightful romp that everyone should go see if you already are going to or have seen Pixar’s Lightyear, but need something before the incredible The Sea Beast. I’ll definitely be picking up this film in the future when it hits Blu-ray, and if you love animated films with an indie charm, then you will love this film. Next time though, we are going to check out Chris Williams’ new Netflix animated feature of epic proportions, The Sea Beast.
Rating: Go See It!