The gang is all here – well, mostly. There’s hapless patriarch Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), his boisterous Noo Joisey-accented wife Linda (John Roberts) and their three children, eldest teenager Tina (Dan Mintz), youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) and the middle child, Gene (Eugene Mirman). The Belchers’ eyepatch-wearing landlord (and owner of much of the town), Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), is also present, along with his brother Felix (Zach Galifianakis) and their untrustworthy lawyer relative, Grover (David Wain). Teddy (Larry Murphy), occasional handyman and Bob’s Burgers best customer, uses his skills and support to build a mobile cart to sell Bob’s wares. Bob’s business nemesis Jimmy Pesto, owner of Jimmy Pesto’s Pizzeria across the street, is rarely seen and never heard from (google the actor who plays him for ideas as to why). However, his son Jimmy Pesto Jr. (Benjamin again) is nearby to torment his classmate Tina with the flat butt she’s been obsessed with throughout the series.
The animation looks surprisingly impressive on the big screen, while retaining the show’s garish, flashy color scheme and penchant for describing body hair as unruly Morse code of dashes and dots. The red frame of Linda’s fabulous glasses pops, as does the ubiquitous pink hat with bunny ears that Louise wears. That bunny hat sets one of the film’s subplots in motion: the normally confident Louise being called a baby by her classmates, throwing her into a frenzy of doubt. True to her character, she decides to prove them wrong.
Luckily for her, a huge hole has just opened up in front of Bob’s Burgers, making entry almost impossible and sending her parents into bouts of worry about their livelihood. While her parents hatch a plan for a mobile restaurant (complete with a questionable bikini-clad burger mascot) to save their business, Louise discovers a body in the sinkhole. The evidence implicates Calvin in the murder, but Louise suspects otherwise. She and her siblings go in search of the truth. Mayhem ensues, some of which should come with a mild warning for those suffering from claustrophobia.
There are Easter eggs for loyal fans, but anyone can enter The Bob’s Burgers Movie without prior knowledge of the show. Bouchard, his co-director Bernard Derriman and his co-writer Nora Smith do a good job of opening up the Belchers’ universe to welcome newcomers. Each has its own parallel storyline: Tina’s fantasy life offers insight into her compulsions, Gene’s musical beliefs are well established, and Louise’s quest is self-explanatory. In support, the characters turn the exhibition into a couple of production numbers with excellent songs. The choreography is more reminiscent of a high school musical than Bob Fosse, but that’s a big part of the charm.
The true measure of the greatness of a film from a television series is whether viewers are getting something at the theater that they couldn’t get at home. At 102 minutes, The Bob’s Burgers Movie feels more like five connected episodes stitched together than something new abstracted from its origins. The only place he dares to outshine the show is in his emotional moments, where he lets the heart that always beats beneath its surface up three sizes. This buys a lot of goodwill and, in addition to the consistently funny film, makes investing in a ticket worthwhile. For all their bickering, teasing, and conflict, the Belchers have each other — and this movie isn’t ashamed to hammer that message home.
THE BOB’S BURGER MOVIE
Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman. Written by Bouchard and Nora Smith. Starring H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, Zach Galifianakis, David Wain and Kevin Kline. In Boston theaters, suburbs. 102 minutes. PG-13 (slight violence; nothing too cheeky otherwise, although one character likes big ass and can’t lie).