The Bob’s Burgers Movie, by Cameron J. Czaja

While I may not be the biggest fan of the animated television series Bob’s Burgers (2011-presen), I have seen some episodes and appreciate it for what it is. I have been looking forward to watching The Bob’s Burgers Movie on the big screen for quite some time for one reason: it’s a traditionally animated film. I’ve stated on The Legionnaire before that I’m a big fan of animation, however I do have problems with the genre itself these days. Whether it is too kid friendly and/or the animation isn’t done well because it’s use of computer generated images (CGI), if it’s a computer animated film, it’s a “struggle” that I constantly see whenever I see an animated film on the big screen these days, aside from anime. The last traditionally animated film I saw on the big screen was Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018) and let’s just say that I only saw it because I was with friends and wanted to spend time with them. My thoughts about that movie will be for another review, but for right now I want to share my thoughts on The Bob’s Burger Movie.

Much like the other Memorial Day weekend release Top Gun: MaverickThe Bob’s Burger’s Movie got pushed back a couple of years thanks to COVID. I’m not entirely sure if this is the last film from the COVID era to finally get a release, though I will be shocked if there is another film out there that hasn’t seen the light of day due to the pandemic. As mentioned earlier, I have seen some episodes of the television series in the past and enjoyed what I watched, though it hasn’t made me want to continue watching. Will this film not only make me want to binge the series but also justify a theriacal adaptation? As usual, let’s find out. 

In this adaptation of the Bob’s Burgers television series, The Bob’s Burger’s Movie follows the Belcher family. There’s Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), the owner of Bob’s Burgers and husband to Linda (voiced by John Roberts), and father to eldest daughter Tina (voiced by Dan Mintz), middle son Gene (voiced by Eugene Mirman), and youngest daughter Louise (voiced by Kristine Schaal). Much like the series, they each have their own subplots, however the main one focuses on Bob and Linda as they have to figure out a way to pay off their business loan from the bank after they were denied an extension, having only seven days to come up with the money. What makes things worse is a burst pipe in front of the restaurant, leaving a giant sinkhole in the middle of the street which then limits the flow of customers. This attracts the attention of the Belcher’s landlord, Calvin Fischoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline), who notices the situation and may possibly postpone the Belcher’s rent. Later that night, Tina, Gene, and Louise sneak out by the hole because Louise wants to document going down into the hole to prove she’s brave because she was called a baby at school by some of her classmates. She makes it down into the hole, and when trying to get out she accidently unearths a skeleton, which causes her to panic to as the skeleton’s teeth start popping off onto her. This now turns the hole into a crime scene, and after further investigation the police discover that skeleton belonged to a carny from Wonder Wharf (an establishment down the block from Bob’s Burgers), and was killed from a gunshot from a weapon belonging to Calvin Fischoeder, though he denies that he ever committed such an act. He is then arrested, which puts Bob in a more panicked state because he loses faith that he will make enough money to save his business. Louise, who notices her father’s dilemma, enlists help from her siblings and skips school to try and solve the mystery of the carny’s death using one of the teeth that Louise had obtained. The hope is that it will not only clear Calvin Fischoeder’s name, but also save her family’s business.    

Whenever I think of the films that were adapted from animated television series, the ones that come to mind for me are The Simpsons Movie and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004). I know there have been other animated series that have gotten the big screen treatment, but to me those are the ones that stood out mostly because I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants. One thing that I don’t want to do, however, is compare The Bob’s Burgers Movie to those two films I mentioned because I don’t think it’s fair to put them side-by-side when critiquing this film. That said, after I watched it, I was wondering why I don’t love The Bob’s Burgers Movie to the same degree of The Simpsons Movie and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, minus the fact that I’m a huge fan of both of those properties. Then I realized what a Bob’s Burgers movie was missin: a sense of an epic presence. Allow me to explain. 

When I watched The Simpsons Movie and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, one thing I noticed is how those films had a grand narrative and bombastic scenes that went above and beyond the television series. While I haven’t watched The Bob’s Burger Movie in its entirety, the plot in this film felt like one from the show, but extended from a single episode to one having a runtime of a feature length film. There was a moment where the Belcher family was in great peril, followed by them preventing a major catastrophe. Other than that, the plot felt very grounded to where I believe it could’ve told on the smaller screen and worked just as well. In hindsight, I think the reason why films like The Simpsons Movie and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie work is because either they go on a journey where it takes characters in unknown areas not featured in the series and/or have a unique gimmick that stands out. The Bob’s Burgers Movie, unfortunately, doesn’t have any of those elements, which makes it harder to justify its existence as a movie rather than a three-part story arc in a regular season. In retrospect, though, part of me respects the decision to not have the characters in the film go on a journey or have a film do something gimmicky just for the sake of it. Maybe if they make a sequel they might do something in that manner. Who knows?

Even though I think The Bob’s Burgers Movie wasn’t the grand television adaptation that I wanted it to be, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time. The film is filled with witty humor and clever dialogue that keeps flowing at a pace that felt natural and doesn’t lose if you’re not familiar with the show. It’s only towards the end of the second act when I noticed how the pacing start to slow down a bit. This was mainly because it happened in one scene where they spent maybe a good twenty minutes (or less) in one location did I get a little bit bored. Fortunately, however, once that scene ends it provides a great animated sequence that brought me back into the film. What made it great was that I was a traditionally animated chase scene which is something I admired because I hardly get to see something like that on daily basis because most animated chase scenes I watch on the big screen these days are CGI. In retrospect, it was such a delight to see a 2-D animated film from beginning to end with no CGI scenes on the silver screen. It is something I wish I can see more of in general, which makes me wish this film is successful enough to influence other animated studious to follow suit. Hopefully one day. 

Besides the animation, one big take away that I have for The Bob’s Burgers Movie that I deeply enjoyed is the pro family theme. Despite the film being rated PG-13, it’s very much a family film, but not in a kid friendly or a cheap gimmicky way like the Fast and Furious series. The film focuses on the family and while they may not all be together throughout, it’s the scenes when they are together that I really enjoyed. One scene in particular that I liked is during the third act where they were all together and uncertain about their future. It felt genuine and wholesome. It may not be your typical family, but the Catholic Church is much more accepting of such things than people realize. Go to Mass one day and you see for yourself. Getting back to the scene, it’s that type of family bonding I wish more adult animated programs would have these days. Other than The Simpsons, I’m drawing a blank at the moment.   

Was The Bob’s Burgers Movie the greatest film based on a television series? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Did I regret seeing it on the big screen? Fortunately, I didn’t. Because of the animation and witty humor throughout the film, my enjoyment definitely outweighed initial problems, such as the not so epic story and weak pacing towards the end of the second act. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a pro-family film, and while it does have some risqué bits of dialogue such “sexy burgers” and “sex sells,” it’s nothing too inappropriate to where if I had a seven- to twelve-year-old, I would be uncomfortable showing them this film. It’s not a film I would rush out to see again in a theater. However, once it’s available to watch on a streaming platform, I might watch it again. Between then, I might even check out the series and watch the episodes I have missed out on, though it might be difficult with streaming services over-saturated with content these days. Such is my personal first world problem at the moment.

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