‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ Review
Every once in a while, I like to pop into a film that’s part of a long-running series with which I have no familiarity whatsoever to see how it plays not as the continuation of said series but as a standalone project. This often ends with me shrugging my shoulders and thinking “Yeah, that probably made more sense if you understood, you know, what the property was about.” See, for instance, the Downton Abbey movie. (The first one. I’ve not bothered with the second, for reasons of having seen the first one and left with that shoulder shrug.)
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is one such Bunch-ignorant property: Despite the fact that the show has been on Fox for more than a decade now and has done well on reruns on both TBS and Adult Swim, and despite the fact that the titular Bob is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who is, without a doubt, my favorite voice actor, I’ve never watched a single episode. Heck, I’ve never watched so much as a clip. My knowledge of Bob and his burgers is limited entirely to what I’ve gathered via osmosis online.
I’m pleased to say that The Bob’s Burgers Movie works pretty well as a standalone story: While there are undoubtedly some references that I didn’t quite catch (for example, one of the villains appears to have been in a relationship with a murderer at some point, a repeated reference that has no real bearing on the plot?) there were enough context clues for everything to make sense.
It helps that the plot is pretty straightforward: Bob Belcher (Benjamin) and his wife Linda (John Roberts) need to earn enough money to pay off their overdue loan before the bank repossesses their kitchen equipment, a task made even more difficult by the sinkhole containing a murdered body that opens up in front of the restaurant, blocking passersby from the restaurant. The Belcher kids, who are winding up the school year, endeavor to solve the murder of the carnie in the hole, a mystery that seems to have ties to their landlord and local theme park operator Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline).
So, consider this my piece of service criticism for the day: If you’re worried about going to see The Bob’s Burgers Movie because you’ve never seen an episode of Bob’s Burgers, don’t be, you’ll be fine.
But is it good?
This is, naturally, a trickier question. Particularly as it relates to comedy: I laughed aloud on several occasions, but this is definitely a dryer, sometimes quite densely packed, piece of humor. For every joke in the dialogue there are two in the background, wordplay on signage that elicits either a chuckle and appreciative nod or a groan, depending on your level of pun-tolerance.
Part of the appeal for me is the mere presence of H. Jon Benjamin, whose timbre of voice is so particular and so unique that it has made me laugh aloud for multiple decades. From his work as Coach McGuirk on Home Movies to his James Bond knockoff Sterling Archer on Archer to the narration of his audiobook, Failure Is an Option, everything Benjamin does makes me smile. That I’ve never watched Bob’s Burgers feels, in hindsight, like a mistake.
The animation is well done, providing both a sense of lived-in realism and dirtiness to the Belchers’ little seaside town and a rousing action set piece in the closing act underneath the boardwalk. Though I will say that section could’ve been just a hair brighter; I felt like I was missing sight gags as they went whizzing by during a boardwalk bubble-car chase.
Of note: this is a musical, at least in part. There are a handful of songs, anyway. Again: I have no idea if this is a long-running conceit from the show or something special for the movie, but I will say that the numbers are amusingly bad in the sense that the singers performing the songs aren’t really singers and the dancing is animated in a way that mimics how a non-dancer might dance. Lots of head-bobbing and arm swinging; it’s not really Astaire/Rogers, if you catch my drift. The intentional average-ness of the performances amused me in the sense that, as a tone-deaf and rhythm-free individual, I have more or less the same takeaway from all musicals regardless of critical acclaim; it felt like an inside joke aimed at me, personally.
In short: I both could follow and quite enjoyed The Bob’s Burgers Movie. It is a pleasant way to kill 100 minutes at your local multiplex, even if you’ve never seen a single episode of the show.