For years, people have raved to me about Bob's Burgers. Since I don't watch television shows, that tended to go in one ear and out the other. (The same thing happened with Downton Abbey.) For the release of The Bob's Burgers Movie, I decided to watch the first episode, just to familiarize myself before seeing the film. It made me laugh, and so did this feature-length version. Understanding why it appeals so strongly to so many people is easy. Even when the humor veers toward dark places, there's an underlying optimism to these characters and their world.
Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) and his wife Linda (John Roberts) are in deep trouble as the story begins. The bank has given them one week to pay off their loans or else their burger joint will be foreclosed upon. Making matters worse, a giant sinkhole has opened up right outside the door, rendering it impossible for customers to enter. Daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) falls into that sinkhole, only to discover the murdered corpse of a carny who worked at the amusement pier down the street. The Belcher's landlord is the prime suspect, but Louise and her siblings Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Tina (Dan Mintz) think he will help save the restaurant if they can prove his innocence. Thus begins a wacky adventure that takes the Belchers deep into the heart of Wonder Wharf.
The Bob's Burgers Movie is refreshingly free of cynicism. The characters are delightfully kooky, yet without the mean-spirited undercurrent found in similar animated fare like South Park. Bob is a dreamer who has evolved into a pessimist, whereas Linda sees the bright side of life. The film opens with a musical number in which they sing about their anticipated great summer. When things begin to fall apart, she keeps him afloat, expressing faith in his ability to find a solution to the problem. That's a nice touch, and so is the way the kids are dedicated to helping their parents. Louise, Gene, and Tina certainly have lovable eccentricities – including the way Gene annoys everyone with a musical instrument he made out of a fork and a napkin holder – yet they don't look down on Bob and Linda the way Bart Simpson does to Homer. At the core, you get a very loving family here.
That isn't to say the film isn't funny, because it is. A willingness to indulge in bizarre, unexpected twists makes the comedy come alive. Some of that happens in the form of dialogue, as when Bob recalls Louise's first day of school, telling her, “You slapped a kid. We were so proud. They probably deserved it.” Or when the family is trapped inside a vehicle and, noticing the steamed-up windows, Gene exclaims, “Everyone be less moist!” Other times, it's via kooky situations the Belchers find themselves in, such as the kids' trek into a carny town (right next to the dog food factory, no less) where carnival workers drink beer, play Lucky Duck, and break into song.
All those weird detours lead to big laughs. The story is clever, too, particularly in how it allows the clan to come together for a common cause. One of the best scenes finds the Belchers in legitimate peril after an encounter with the killer. Perhaps more than anything, this sequence exemplifies what's most appealing about The Bob's Burger's Movie. Everything from a hilarious fart joke to a sincere effort from Bob to save his family is incorporated into it. The picture has an ability to mix irreverence and sweetness that's incredibly satisfying, especially in these crazy times.
The Bob's Burgers Movie is certain to please fans of the show. Even if you've never seen a single episode, though, following along is easy. In fact, I want to specifically recommend the film to people who haven't watched the show. This is a terrific comedy that gives you a warm feeling, even as its cracking you up. With pleasing animation and perfect voice acting from the entire cast, it's a nice way to block out the world's problems for 102 minutes and just laugh.
out of four
The Bob's Burgers Movie is rated PG-13 for rude/suggestive material and language. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.