The great thing about Fox’s animated TV sitcom Bob’s Burgers is that the appeal is right there in the title: You like burgers? Wonderful. Here’s a show that will give you the same feeling. For those unfamiliar with the pleasures involved, here’s one person’s take: A burger is unassuming and simple, to the point where just about any fast-food place in America will offer one, even if the rest of the menu is focused on something radically different. As with pizza, there are countless ways to prepare a burger, but the basics are the same everywhere — and no matter how many burgers you’ve had, those basics can still be surprising.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is one such surprise. The feature-length incarnation of the long-running series doesn’t stray very far from the familiar. Just like any given episode of the show — which just wrapped its 12th season with its 238th episode in late May — The Bob’s Burgers Movie follows Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) and his wife, Linda (John Roberts), proprietors of the titular burger shop, as a new crisis threatens to pull their family business under. Meanwhile, their children, Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal), become overly committed to proving something to themselves and others, which leads them on a nonsensical adventure that eventually, maybe, will also help their parents.
This is how most episodes of Bob’s Burgers can be summed up, and the movie is no exception. This time, the problem threatening the burger shop is a massive sinkhole right at its front door, keeping the Belchers from doing business during an annual festival that’s vital to keeping them afloat. Meanwhile, the Belcher children are about to end the school year, and each wants to make their own small mark. Demurely horny eldest child Tina wants to kiss the boy she’s crushing on. Gene has invented an instrument best described as a vibraslap made out of spoons and a napkin holder, one he hopes he can use to finally leverage his dream of starting a band. And youngest child Louise, never seen without her pink bunny-eared hat, wants to prove that she’s brave enough to risk her hat falling off, even though the hat is what makes her brave.
Yet because this is The Bob’s Burgers Movie, all of these conflicts are grafted onto a plot that’s a little larger than the mundane affairs of a typical episode. This time, there’s a murder involved. And eventually, all of the Belchers’ stories intersect with the story of who was murdered and why.
Inserting a murder plot into a Bob’s Burgers story feels a little incongruous with what makes the show so much fun. In some ways, it’s just an excuse to make sure the story is big enough to wrap a film around — while The Bob’s Burgers Movie is more interested in thrills than Bob’s Burgers proper, the murder plot makes sure there’s room to stack the film high with recurring characters like the Belchers’ landlord, Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), and his weirdo brother Felix (Zach Galifianakis). In other ways, it’s kind of a farce: a one-off movie based on a long-running and still ongoing TV show can’t really do anything too drastic to its status quo. And that’s fine! Bob’s Burgers, like the delicious and commonplace food it’s centered around, does an incredible job of turning mild variations into spectacular joys.
The larger scale of The Bob’s Burgers Movie isn’t always an awkward fit. A feature length lets the film be a proper musical at times, as what would be little ditties on the show are expanded to full-on musical numbers with ambitious staging and more jokes. (There are, unfortunately, fewer songs than expected; the movie has more music, but it’s not a musical.) The animation is gorgeous and crisp, and the script keeps its referential nature low-key. This could easily be someone’s first Bob’s Burgers experience, and it remains likable enough throughout that it probably wouldn’t be their last.
It’s hard to levy any serious complaints against The Bob’s Burgers Movie, just as it’s hard to find a truly bad burger. While every burger fan will always have their favorite, it’s rare to find one worth avoiding. Mostly, the problem with The Bob’s Burgers Movie comes down to the only aspect of a quality burger unrelated to taste: the price. A truly great burger is affordable. Bob’s Burgers airs for free on broadcast television, a hell of a deal. Is it good enough to warrant a movie ticket? Yeah, sure. But there’s no need to splurge if you don’t want to.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie debuts in theaters on May 27.