Though I’ve never disclosed this on my blog, I’m a huge fan of Bob’s Burgers. An animated sitcom featuring a family who run a burger restaurant, it’s full of relatable characters, hilariously chaotic (but good) kids and genuinely charming, often laugh-out-loud situations and humour. It can be a little risqué at times, but it’s generally harmless and certainly wouldn’t put it in the same league as outrageously adult shows such as South Park or Archer.
The family’s patriarch – the Bob of the title – is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who coincidentally also voices the title character of spy show Archer (in exactly the same way too, though they’re completely different characters). Bob Belcher is a loving husband and a hard worker who puts lots of pressure on himself to provide for his family. Wife Linda (one of the several female characters voiced by a male actor – in this case, the brilliant John Roberts) is supportive, enthusiastic and sometimes optimistic to the point of being annoying to everyone around her, but she truly loves and will do anything for her family. Oldest kid Tina (another male voice: Dan Mintz) frequently experiences the sweet pangs of adolescent love and all kinds of relatable awkwardness that befalls kids of her age. Next in line is Gene (Eugene Mirman) who seems to see himself as some sort of entertaining variety act, frequently dropping one liners and using a synthesiser to bring sound effects into the most inappropriate situations. Youngest daughter Louise can never be without her bunny ears; they’re a comfort blanket, essentially – but Louise is the smartest, bravest and most determined of the Belchers.
Surrounding them are a variety of oddballs and hangers-on, with lots of brilliant characters – some played by genuinely well-known actors (Kevin Kline as landlord Mr Fischoeder and Zach Galifianakis as his no good brother, for example).
The movie sees the Belchers struggling to pay the Bank for their leased restaurant equipment; failing to do so in seven days will mean they’ll lose everything – and that’s understandably stressing Bob out, to the point where he starts to lose faith in himself. Louise’s maturity and bravery is questioned, causing her to question everything about herself. Other Belchers are confronted with various uncomfortable truths about themselves that they need to deal with too. And then a sinkhole opens up in front of their store just when they have an opportunity to increase footfall in their restaurant – leading to a murder mystery that plenty of those aforementioned oddballs get involved in.
While nailing the tone of an episode of Bob’s Burgers and doing great things with the characters, there’s a niggling feeling that this could have just been an episode or two of the show. Sure, there’s a few touches to the animation that reveal higher production values and there’s a few songs, featuring large numbers of the cast, that again justify a higher budget – but the story is a fairly slight one and doesn’t take our beloved characters very far from their usual surroundings at all.
The songs are all pretty underwhelming too – and it really does feel like the material is being stretched thin by the end; while amusing, the gags just seem spread out and the whole movie really would have benefitted from being a bit shorter, not that it’s particularly long in the first place.
It’s a bit of a disappointment then. There’s lots of visual references and characters that will be fun to see for long term fans of the show, but even then The Bob’s Burgers Movie does little to justify being a big screen event. Though the family and the assorted kooks that gravitate around them are as charming as ever, it’s a real missed opportunity to get The Belchers out into the wider world; we barely get to go beyond the Wonder Wharf at the end of their street, in a story that wouldn’t have been out of place in a two parter on the show.
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