In The Bob’s Burgers Movie, the Belcher family find themselves in a pickle (and not the kind they’re used to as restaurateurs).
Taking to the big screen after twelve seasons of wholesome family antics on television, Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) and his eccentric family – including his wife Linda (John Roberts), son Gene (Eugene Mirman) and daughters Tina (Dan Mintz) and Louise (Kristen Schaal) – face their most devastating challenge in the form of a sinkhole that has left their wharfside restaurant closed. It is a metaphoric void that has left Bob immobile, exacerbating his existing financial woes following an unsuccessful attempt to secure an extension on his business loan.
Dealing with blow-after-blow, Bob and Linda never break – the film staying true to the nature of the show, functioning as a love letter to the parents that have not only loved immensely, but persevered. Having seen their parents struggle, the Belcher children seek out the mystery behind a body located within the sinkhole. For the Belcher kids, each of whom possesses their own distinct quirks, trouble spreads like wildfire.
The film is steered by Bob and Louise’s stories, though that is not to say each member of the Belcher family isn’t given their motivations or moments to shine: If Linda were the family rock, she would be a mountain; Tina’s pursues desire, although whether her wistful longing matches her fantasy is something she must discover; and the hyperactive Gene has plans to go big with his new-wave inspired band, The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee.
This use of punnery, along with the series’ penchant for surprisingly wicked quips, is where Bob’s Burgers‘ offbeat humour wows audiences. It is in the scraggly, hand-drawn presentation of life where we grasp onto the monotony of quotidian existence, the series combining levity and heart as a tool to showcase how we punch through the ennui of living. This is an act best served through song, for which many show-tunes happen in delightfully daggy fashion. (The performance explaining the film’s big reveal revels in over-the-top splendour.) These idiosyncrasies are not limited to the Belcher family, with the likes of returning characters portrayed by Kevin Kline (a standout) and Zach Galifianakis proving a perfect match for the film’s zany vibe.
Upholding the sitcom nature of the series, screenwriters Loren Bouchard (co-creator of the series) and Nora Smith compose a film that feels written in response to the mounting pressures of the past three years. They see and respect what you, the fans, have been through. Perhaps the only observable deviation from the series, and true to other animated TV shows turned films (going hard on the shadowing and swooping shots a la The Simpsons Movie (2007)), is how the film ups the dramatic ante to quite a macabre and introspective degree.
For devotees, this may take some getting used to.
Otherwise staying true to the secret recipe, directors Bouchard and Bernard Derriman (long-time collaborators in the series) never allow this heaviness to stay dark for too long, creating a feel-good and kind piece of escapism that acknowledges that while times can be tough, they can get better. While the show deals in fast food, it is very much the movie equivalent of a hot tea for the soul.
The film closes with perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the series: a flashback to an early memory of one of the characters that undoubtedly tugs at the heart. It is beautifully executed and represents the cathartic power of a series that leans so hard into love that it needs an exercise mat to catch its fall. It is in this sweet, off-beat poeticism where the film, although taking a moment to kick into, creates deep-fried goodness that is accessible to all.
Good luck trying to turn down a second helping.
‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ opened in Australian cinemas on May 26th and U.S. cinemas on May 27th.