When the “Moody Foodie” arrives in Bob’s Burgers season two, Bob way overthinks it. The mustachioed cook and father of three is desperate for the hotshot writer to like his food after the critic’s snide prose has already condemned three other restaurants in town. But between the kids’ antics and Linda being, well, Linda, Bob can’t quite focus when the critic finally comes. So, he gets stressed out behind the grill, messes up the order, and the Moody Foodie writes a bad review. “Overdone and dry,” the critic digs–a metaphoric knife straight to the heart of TV’s favorite third-generation restaurateur.
Those same words could describe the plot of The Bob’s Burgers Movie, an otherwise cute outing that, for some reason, sees the Belchers reusing old plot points like stale hamburger buns. But it’s the rest of the “Moody Foodie” episode—in which Bob learns the importance of ignoring haters and just doing what he loves—that feels more relevant when reviewing a mostly wonderful big screen debut for the Belchers. It isn’t a top-tier Bob’s story (not even upper half, to be frank), but with some of the most beloved characters in cartoon history finally reaching the big screen, it’s a perfectly lovely chance to have some real fun in theaters. Think The Simpsons Movie, but sweeter and with more culinary puns.
As with countless Bob’s Burgers episodes before it, The Bob’s Burgers Movie kicks off with familiar problems for the family of five. Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) face money troubles, while Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) set out on their respective boyfriend-/music-/revenge-related misadventures for summer vacation. When a sinkhole not-so-suddenly appears in front of the restaurant—astute TV fans may have noticed it slowly forming throughout season 12—the act of god begins a chain-reaction culminating in what would be the biggest Bob’s adventure yet...if something shockingly similar hadn’t already happened on the show. (It’s so similar that this Utterly Vile Cinephile won’t name the episode, but will offer a nebulous “season seven” to anyone eagerly searching for spoilers.)
With the kids riding around town on their bikes and Linda, Bob, and Teddy (Larry Murphy) rushing to save the restaurant, the meandering plot facilitates the appearance of countless fan favorites. Calvin (Kevin Kline) and Felix Fischoeder (Zach Galifianakis) cart their way onto the scene early, delivering some of the funniest lines in the movie. The arrivals of Sergeant Boscoe (Gary Cole), Mr. Dowling (Craig Anton) from First Oceanside Savings Bank, and robber-turned-carnival ride operator Mickey (voiced here not by Bill Hader but by co-director and Bob’s series creator Loren Bouchard) harken back to their origins in “Bob Day Afternoon”—one of, if not THE best Bob’s Burgers episodes ever. In the periphery are the students and teachers of Wagstaff, some of Bob and Linda’s adult friends, and other popular Wonder Wharf visitors, like Speedo Guy.
Many of the subplots nested within these character introductions also bump against plots explored in the series. (“Bob Actually,” “Itty Bitty Ditty Committee,” “Food Truckin,” and many others come to mind.) But taking a “greatest hits” approach with this particularly well-populated fictional town does make practical sense. The Bob’s Burgers Movie can’t functionally change too much about the characters’ inside the animated snow globe that is its serialized namesake, so instead it picks them up, plays with them, and then puts them back like you would a Kuchi Kopi or Horselain.
That proves to be a plenty entertaining extension, even if it isn’t entirely revelatory. Seeing Bob’s Burgers’ brightest elements shine on a big screen feels spectacular, with the level of detail and lighting used in its keyed-up animation style making Ocean Avenue feel not only more cinematic, but also more real. A burger with everything on it (Little King Trashmouth in the alley! Ghostboy graffiti on the walls!), The Bob’s Burgers Movie serves up an adventure that, yes, you’ve eaten before, figuratively speaking. But it’s not every weekend the Belchers get to be movie stars—so why not try this, the Burger of The Day?