Bob’s Burgers (2022)
Written by Loren Bouchard & Nora Smith
Directed by Loren Bouchard & Bernard Derriman
I was apparently one of the few viewers who watched Loren Bouchard’s Home Movies during its month-long run on UPN in 1999. At the time, I enjoyed the animated series and especially the contributions of H. Jon Benjamin as Coach McGurk. I also briefly remember seeing a few episodes of Science Court on ABC around 1997, also done in the trademark “squiggle vision” of Bouchard’s work at the time. However, when Bob’s Burgers came around, I wasn’t really watching many animated programs; I can’t exactly say why but it just doesn’t appeal to me much. While my wife loves Bob’s Burgers, I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and definitely found them to be funny, but nothing that had me coming back week after week. However, when the film was released, I was interested to see how it translated into a bigger format.
Bob Belcher (Benjamin) and his wife Linda (John Roberts) are denied an extension on their business loan with only a month to get the payment. This is complicated when a sinkhole opens up right in front of the burger joint, which keeps customers away. Eldest daughter Tina (Dan Mintz) is trying to work up the courage to ask her crush, Jimmy Pesto Jr, to be her summer boyfriend. Gene (Eugene Mirman) wants to reform his band for the summer, while the youngest Louise (Kristen Schaal) wrestles with her dependence on her bunny ears hat to remain brave. The sinkhole leads the family into a summer adventure when the skeleton of Cotton Candy Dan, a carnie from the nearby Wonder Wharf, is found. His murder years earlier is part of a conspiracy that the Belchers will have to uncover.
The visual upgrade is the first noticeable change if you are a regular television series viewer. Traditional animation is combined with digital elements to enhance the look. More prominent lighting shades the characters and objects, giving them more weight and dimensionality. Many buildings are drawn with computer software with the character incorporated. I think it worked best with the musical/dance numbers. The character fluidity here is incredibly impressive. These are just cartoons dancing; you can see the time spent on choreography and staging, so these set pieces are so interesting to watch. The song & dance bit in the carnies’ shanty-town was terrific to watch.
The songs are also an interesting change for people more accustomed to a Disney-style animated picture. The actors are not fantastic singers, but the songs are not written to make them sound better. Instead, everyone sounds like a regular person trying to be in a musical which adds to the comedy. David Wain’s character gets a fantastic song in the second act where he pitches his voice up, making it squeaky at moments. Is it a beautifully sung bit? Nope. But, it does make it a funnier scene. The lyrics and the performances play into the movie’s tone, something you might not often find as movies try to make their songs sound “good.”
Even though I don’t watch the series regularly, I found many plot beats predictable. These characters are very set in stone in terms of personalities and relationships. If you wanted the type of story you’d find in an episode of Bob’s Burgers but just enhanced for the movie theater, you have precisely that. Nothing in the script goes beyond anything that would happen on television. Seeing them push the envelope and take advantage of being a movie would have been excellent. There also aren’t enough songs; I can remember four total, which makes it confusing about the filmmakers’ intention.
One thing I can rely on in a Bob’s Burgers story is that it will be about the struggles of the working class. Yes, this is a cartoon world full of wacky characters who look like they could be Muppets, but the conflicts Bob deals with are almost always about keeping his business afloat. His passion is burgers, and he sadly lives in a world where his burgers aren’t a massive financial success. I have always appreciated the dynamic between Bob and Linda, such a cheerful, loving television couple. His anxiety can get the best of him, and it’s Linda reminding him of all the good things that keep him going. You aren’t going to have your mind blown away by this movie, but it should be a very entertaining hour and a half.