Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 42 minutes, Directors – Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
While a sinkhole outside their burger restaurant causes more stress about loan and rent payments for owners Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts), it provides their children with an early-summer murder-mystery to solve.
For anyone like myself who’s never seen the hit adult animation series Bob’s Burgers there’s an easy way in to the feature adaptation. Even before the unexpected, yet undeniably welcome, opening(ish) song begins there’s a simple string of gags bantered between the central Belcher family within their burger restaurant. While parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) worry about their upcoming meeting at the bank about their loan repayment the kids sit behind the counter before school, poking fun at their dad – who displays a hand-drawn “smelliest man award” above his grill – and coming up with their own musical instruments made of spoons and napkin holders. The jokes and personalities fly thick and fast amongst the grouping with little time spared for silence. It’s a welcoming early dose of humour to establish the tone and style that the film will be travelling across for its fast 102 minute run-time.
Amongst the various verbal gags the film and its screenwriters (show creator, and co-director – alongside Bernard Derriman – Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith) appear to take delight in the occasional written or background gag – a shop that sells wool lingerie is brilliantly called ‘Sensu-wool’. There’s plenty happening on screen at one time to likely reward multiple viewings of the adventure that plays out for the characters. While Bob and Linda worry about their loan and rent payments, particularly when business is halted from a sinkhole opening up right outside their restaurant, their children attempt to solve a murder when they discover a body in the hole. Led mostly by youngest, nine-year-old Louise (Kristen Schaal) as she tries to prove that she’s brave and not a baby, as she’s teased for being by people at school for the pink, bunny-eared hat she’s always wearing. It’s a different personal challenge to older sister Tina (Dan Mintz) who wants to prove to herself that she can ask out fellow student Jimmy Jr. (Benjamin). Meanwhile, brother Gene (Eugene Mirman) simply wants to get on with revolutionising modern music as the leader, and sole-believer, of his band.
Yet, none of these personal challenges and arcs overly get in the way of the central narrative at the heart of the film. Instead they act more as personality traits and elements that can provide occasional gags to be played with during certain scenes. The more certain details are played with and pushed the funnier they can become within the realms of the film where a number of characters are played with a slightly dead-pan, matter-of-fact nature. It’s what links many of them, particularly within the Belcher family and patriarch Bob (not the lead, although his name is above the door, instead blending in amongst the ensemble of characters), and helps to further involve you in the world as its nature and figures are established so clearly and easily so early on. By the time the short and few musical numbers do come around you can’t help but have a big smile spread across your face as you feel the summer joy that the film encapsulates within its handful of landscapes, primarily the street on which the family live and work and the carnival pier at the end of it – owned by eccentric landlord Calvin Fischoeder (a hilarious Kevin Kline).
As the third act arrives and the narrative begins to present its closing elements there’s still plenty of laughs to be had. Jokes are placed frequently throughout, worked into the scenes and narrative to never drop the tone of the film. It makes for one of the most entertaining, and funniest, villain confrontations and explanations possible. A pure joy to see unfold through the tears in your eyes. Smith, Bouchard and indeed the entire cast and crew understand the hints of silliness within the structure of the world and characters and play with them for full effect. Not creating something bonkers and outlandish to separate from the nature of the characters, but pointing out the more ‘absurd’ elements and making that into a joke too. It plays with such elements for comedic potential and very often hits to the effect of frequent bursts of laughter and chuckles throughout its run-time. All while still managing to keep and reference the different family relationships within the titular business throughout.
Over multiple series everyone involved has clearly whittled and crafted a clear style and formula that they’re dedicated to; one which has successfully transferred to the big screen. It may start out with the feeling of an extended episode, but that’s never a distraction thanks to the hit rate of laughs. The run-time passes by quickly, feeling like something closer to 90 minutes or under than the 102 that it is. From start to finish Bob’s Burgers proves itself as a successful transition to the big screen, creating a joyous kick off to the summer with plenty of laughs, gags and hidden jokes to warrant repeat viewings. A simply excellent piece of consistent entertainment to really sink your teeth into.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie may just be one of the biggest surprises on the year. A successful small to big screen adaptation packed with heaps of humour that revolve around the finely-whittled characters who still maintain their day-to-day worries. Surely one to reward revisiting, it’s a hilarious way to start off the summer.