An overlong average episode of a sweet animated sitcom
Bob’s Burgers, one of the lowest-rated shows on network television in its 12th season, was never going to set records with a theatrical movie release. But this weekend in particular, given the opening of a much-awaited Top Gun sequel, as well as premieres of a new Star Wars shows and a season of Stranger Things, the pop-culture tides are going to overwhelm the “Bob’s Burgers Movie.” It doesn’t help that the movie itself, to use a cliché that actually feels appropriate in this case, is a mostly flavorless nothingburger.
When animated shows go to the big screen, they need to add big-screen conventions. The Simpsons Movie trapped the entire town of Springfield under a dome and introduced the great Spider Pig character. The SpongeBob Squarepants movie sent SpongeBob and Patrick on an epic hero’s journey with the truly memorable song “Now That We’re Men.”
And, of course, there’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, which upped the stakes of an already high-stake cartoon with the best musical comedy soundtrack of all time.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie does none of that. It’s essentially an overlong average episode of a sweet, inoffensive animated sitcom. It introduces no new characters other than an incredibly flat villain and shows no meta-awareness, unlike the abovementioned films, that this is a movie, not a TV show. There are a couple of somewhat over-budget, sort-of-exciting action sequences featuring decent amusement-park gags. And the movie does contain songs, but they’re universally terrible, which is somewhat surprising given that the songs on the Bob’s Burgers TV show are usually the highlight.
THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Written by: Nora Smith, Loren Bouchard, Jim Dauterive
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, John Roberts, David Wain, Zach Galifianakis, Kevin Kline
Running time: 102 mins
Bob and Linda Belcher, who own a greasy spoon on the waterfront of a decaying East Coast amusement park, are facing foreclosure when a giant sinkhole opens in front of the restaurant. Their off-kilter kids, Tina, Gene, and Louise, discover a dead body in the hole, which leads to a murder investigation and a great gag where Louise ends up inadvertently getting a corpse’s teeth in her mouth. Tina is a weird, horny 8th grader who has a longstanding crush on a dumb kid named Jimmy Junior. Gene has dreams of glam-rock stardom, and Louise is a free spirit who wears bunny ears. These are their personae in the show, and these are their personae in the movie as they set about their investigation.
They all get side plotlines related to those personae which actually feel muted at times compared to what the show serves up; there are actually fewer characters per square inch in this lazy screenplay than there are in the average Bob’s Burgers episode.
It’s all reasonably cute for the first hour, and Eugene Mirman as Gene gets in a bunch of laugh lines with his weird pop-cultural asides. But nothing else really hits. The murder of the “carny” feels pretty clichéd, like when it was trendy 10 to 15 years ago to make “hobo” jokes. The movie’s final third is a real dud, a limp piece of garnished lettuce. It just fizzles out. For some reason, a semi-musical refuses to highlight a show-stopping musical number by Gene’s band, which it teases for its entire runtime and then cuts from for no real reason. I like the TV show, but The Bob’s Burgers Movie seems unlikely to generate few customers beyond its passionate, but small, existing fanbase, like the titular restaurant itself. There’s just not enough meat in the patty.