The Bob's Burgers Movie provides a pleasant but familiar extension of the animated TV show

click to enlarge The Bob's Burgers Movie provides a pleasant but familiar extension of the animated TV show
Hijinks, thy name is the Belcher children.

It's tough to find something new to explore in a show that has run for 12 seasons and counting, so The Bob's Burgers Movie never quite transcends its status as an addendum to the series, playing on the well-established character beats and running jokes. There's a pleasant familiarity to the movie even if you've never watched the Fox animated program, and both dedicated fans and newcomers can have a good time taking in the Belcher family's latest misadventures. It's little more than a 100-minute episode of Bob's Burgers, but that makes it 100 minutes of goofy, giddy fun.

The basic setup for Bob's Burgers is easy to grasp: Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is the owner and chef of the titular restaurant, located in a seaside town somewhere vaguely in the eastern United States. He lives in an apartment above the restaurant with his family: wife Linda (John Roberts), son Gene (Eugene Mirman), and daughters Tina (Dan Mintz) and Louise (Kristen Schaal). That's really all you need to know to enjoy the movie, which finds the Belchers caught up in a murder mystery while working to save their restaurant from bank foreclosure. Those sound like high stakes, but they're treated with the same casual good humor as any of the show's hundreds of storylines over the years.

The trouble starts when a sinkhole opens up right in front of the restaurant, preventing customers from accessing the entrance at a time when the Belchers have only a week to make an overdue payment on a bank loan. The Belchers hope for a quick resolution to the problem, which is complicated by the discovery of a skeleton at the bottom of the hole. That leads to a murder investigation pointing directly at the Belchers' rich, eccentric landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline). The Belcher kids, who believe that Mr. Fischoeder is innocent, appoint themselves amateur detectives, while Bob and Linda try to find new ways to bring in customers and avoid financial ruin.

That allows the movie to alternate between two main plot threads, while the kids all get their own subplots, too. Tina is working up the courage to ask her longstanding crush to be her "summer boyfriend." Gene is trying to get attention for his latest weird musical project. And Louise, the youngest, is determined to prove that she's not a "baby." They're all simple character arcs with satisfying resolutions, although they rehash familiar themes that have been explored in numerous TV episodes already. The movie presents itself as an expansive story, but it will fit seamlessly between seasons of the show without actually changing anything.

There's an upgrade to the visual style, with more dimensions to the animation while keeping the same overall look, and that helps set the movie apart. Series creator Loren Bouchard, who co-writes the film with Nora Smith and co-directs it with Bernard Derriman, also throws in a few musical numbers, although not enough for the movie to qualify as a full-on musical. These voice actors are not singers, but there's charm in the way they commit to the songs, and it would have been appealing to see the movie completely embrace the musical format, like Bouchard did with his underrated Apple TV+ series Central Park.

Everyone involved in creating The Bob's Burgers Movie is a seasoned pro, so the experience is never less than entertaining, even if it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. The main takeaway is an interest in watching more Bob's Burgers, whether for the first time or the hundredth. That speaks to the energy and affection still left in the concept, both for the movie and for the TV seasons to come. ♦

Two and a Half Stars The Bob's Burgers Movie
Rated PG-13
Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman
Starring H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz