It’s hard to say why animated adaptations of beloved television shows are the only ones to ever succeed. Maybe it’s because animation is a more delightful art form. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to keep original casts around a lot longer. Nevertheless, from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut to The Simpsons Movie, there’s a long history of classic animated shows making a splash on the big screen. And The Bob’s Burgers Movie, the adaptation of Fox’s Emmy-winning cult classic, is no exception. The Belcher family’s first foray on the big screen is as delightful as one would hope and expect, with plenty of laughs, heart, and burgers to keep the whole family entertained.
As summer approaches for the Belcher family, everyone seems to be dealing with their own usual dreams and drama: awkward eldest daughter Tina (Dan Mintz) prepares to make Jimmy Jr. her summer boyfriend; eecentric middle child Gene (Eugene Mirman) tries to get his band off the ground with a new instrument made out of napkin holders and rubber bands; lovably psychotic youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) tries to prove to her classmates that she’s not a baby; and parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) try to keep the restaurant afloat, as they always do.
However, things might not work out this time: the bank has given them seven days to pay off their loan or the restaurant will be repossessed. And to make matters worse, a sinkhole opens up in front of their shop, keeping customers from stopping by. And so Bob and Linda set out on a quest to save their family, while the kids undergo an adventure of their own – one involving a dead body, a hidden carnival, and their landlords, the Fischoeders (Kevin Kline, Zach Galifianakis, and David Wain).
The Bob’s Burgers Movie’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t overplay its hand. It doesn’t add twists to the characters or strive for any emotional depth. It takes the characters we love, lets them do what we love, and simply amplifies these scenarios onto a larger scale – here, a mystery (be still my beating heart). It’s a deceptively tricky balance: complicate the characters, and you alienate the fans. Make their stories too niche or undynamic, and you’ll bore newcomers looking for a summer escape. Creator Loren Bouchard simply doubles down on everything: the same silly stories, the same irreverent humor, and the same warm-heartedness that made the show a hit.
After all, like the show, this film is nothing without its heart; it’s a reverse Simpsons (not to be confused with an anti-Simpsons), letting the humor grow out of the characters’ optimism and unyielding love for each other. It’s a beating heart of the film that carries it through from scene to scene, joke to joke, musical number to musical number.
The film also exemplifies something rather underrated about the show’s appeal: the strength of its vocal talent. I’d go as far as to say that Bob’s Burgers has always had one of the best voice acting ensembles in history. This obviously extends to the heavy-hitters like Benjamin, Schaal, and Mirman, all of whom were big names in the animation industry for their unique voices. But it especially applies to those who found their stride amongst the show’s ranks – specifically Roberts and Mintz as Linda and Tina, arguably the show (and film’s) secret weapon.
Both of them fully inhabit these women, and Roberts in particular shines from the jump (the optimistic Linda’s opening line is “That’s the first time an exterminator’s said he’s gonna pray for us, so that was nice of him!”). And that’s not to mention folks like a game Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis, a perfectly deployed Gary Cole, and a veritable who’s who of beloved voice actors like Rob Huebel, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, and Paul F. Tompkins, whose dialogue ranges from undeniable one-line deliveries to full-on Carney musical numbers. It’s delightful.
Most of this praise could equally be gleaned from a randomly selected episode of the television show (my favorite is Season 3 episode “Topsy”). What truly makes this a film worth seeing on the big screen – not to mention worthy of the praise I’m heaping on this silly, silly movie – is the animation. Bob’s Burgers has mostly held its cult appeal due to its colorful, if simplistic, artistic design. And while the shapes and aesthetic of the film are in line with the show, The Bob’s Burgers Movie is instead rendered in stunning 2D animation.
Every frame dazzles in a way recent 3-dimensional fair just hasn’t, whether it’s a massive chase scene under the pier or a throwaway running joke where Gene and Louise throw down their bikes while Tina spends time struggling with the kickstand. It’s a little touch, but a brilliant one nonetheless. And that’s not to mention the film’s perfect juxtaposition between art and camp in its artwork is the dancing; I’ve never seen so much effort put into animating characters dancing in a way that is intentionally jarring to the eye. Oh, and speaking of dancing, did I mention that the film’s inevitable musical numbers are all top-notch, from “Sunny Side Up Summer” to “Lucky Ducks?” This film has it all.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a perfect summer treat for both longtime viewers of the show and complete newcomers alike. As someone who’s more of a passive viewer who’s knowledge extends to “I recognize the main characters and their quirks” and not much else, I never felt lost, and laughed fairly consistently. It’s a delight the whole family can enjoy; a silly, irreverent romp filled with heart, hope, and song. And it’s a perfect way to not only end a rather dour news week, but to kick off a summer of hope and change. Bring on Summer Tina.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is now playing exclusively in theaters