Letterboxd Review: The Bob's Burgers Movie (2022)

When an adult animated series like "Bob's Burgers" makes the big transition to the silver screen, I get worried by default. There are so many pitfalls to this scenario. The bad creative instincts come out when folks are given a bigger budget, the ability to drop more sweet cusses, and animate yellow child penises...ahem.

I'm a big fan of "Bob's Burgers" specifically because it's an adult animated show that is kind, inclusive, and never falls back on shock value, "random" humor, or convoluted lore based around its 226 episodes. What sets it apart from its contemporaries is creator Loren Bouchard and his fellow producers successfully avoiding trying to "evolve" the show into anything more than a pleasant sitcom for twelve years. No synergistic crossovers or drawn out homage/parody concepts, no multi-episode arcs exploring the deep psychosis of a cartoon character, no haughty-yet-perversely-unengaged political finger wagging, no meta exploration of the show's reality. Like "King of the Hill" before it, "Bob's Burgers" doesn't require any of these irritating vanities or frills because it's a fun enough program from the start, just because of the characters and their relatable lives.

Now we come to The Bob's Burgers Movie, a relaxingly straightforward extrapolation of the show's success. Whereas the "South Park" gang spent their cinematic debut gleefully belting out as many uses of the word "fuck" as humanly possible and starting an apocalyptic war that spawns a satanic conquest of the planet, the Belcher family is exactly where they are on our televisions every week just trying to keep the doors of their family business open and have a great summer. It could very well be three or four episodes of the show strung together, if not for the noticeable bump in animation quality and the added breathing room for full musical numbers. 

In retrospect, The Simpsons Movie was a laughable exercise (in the wrong way), as the creators were content with a feature-length victory lap that was ten years overdue. It was loaded with outdated references, perfunctory cameos and callbacks, and propped up by a stitched together plot. Now, of course, this is largely due to the movie being in development for so many years alongside current episodes of the show, which itself was running on fumes creatively. By contrast, The Bob's Burgers Movie has a svelte narrative built less on the need to make a TV show cinematic and more on the need to make a movie. Period. It splits the Belcher family into two plots, with Louise leading much of the film with her siblings on a quest to solve a mystery surrounding Wonder Wharf while Bob and Linda seek to salvage the restaurant in the wake of yet another business disaster. 

And that's it. That's the dang movie. There's no new ominous villain come to town to bulldoze the pier, no alien invasion threatening the fabric of the family's existence, no harrowing misadventure in which they almost die or hurl nasty insults and break up for a portion of the runtime. You get to see great recurring characters like Teddy, the Pesto kids, Sgt. Bosco, and Mr. Frond. Sure. But the entire universe of characters isn't brought to bear. Heck, sister-in-law Gayle is nowhere to be found. Why? Because the plot doesn't require it. Because this is a movie, not just an exhaustive checklist of elements that will require representation for the merchandising. 

This effortless, undemanding approach to converting a successful show into a theatrical release hasn't done the movie any financial favors (though, to be fair, the modest box office return is mostly a product of releasing against Top Gun: Maverick on a holiday weekend), but I find it a commendable and enjoyable leap to the big screen. If you've been charmed by "Bob's Burgers" at home at any point in the last twelve years, you'll be charmed by The Bob's Burgers Movie.

Rating: ✰✰✰✰

This review is a part of Kyle's Letterboxd profile, which includes reviews and movie lists not covered here at the blog, including a ranking of several franchises and excerpts from the book, Cinema Autopsy, which is available on the Amazon Kindle store.
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