Why ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ Works So Well
When I think about Bob’s Burgers, the hit animated sitcom running on Fox that just wrapped up its twelfth season, the show I compare it to the most is the “golden era” run of The Simpsons. Despite the wild antics and irreverent jokes of those first ten or so seasons, what was the emotional anchor was the actual Simpson family and how they always showed up for one another as evidence of their deep familial love. Something has been lost in more recent seasons of The Simpsons by way of that essential sweetness that always used to be at the core of the show.
The same cannot be said of Bob’s Burgers. The show focuses on the Belcher family, the owners of the titular restaurant. Family patriarch Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is a hard-working, blue-collar burger chef who loves creating unusual “burgers of the day” (examples include the “I Know Why the Cajun Burger Sings” and the “Bohemian Radishy Burger”) and is constantly fighting to keep his restaurant afloat and his family in check. His wife Linda (voiced by John Roberts) is a somewhat ditzy, but enthusiastic and very loving wife and mother who loves to burst into song and can be described as a bit of a “wine mom.”
Oldest child Tina (voiced by Dan Mintz) is a socially-awkward teenager who loves horses, is developing crushes on boys, including the son of Bob’s business competitor, and writes “erotic friend fiction” as an outlet for her budding sexuality. Middle child Gene (voiced by Eugene Mirman) is a performative preteen who loves recording the sounds of his own farts, putting on shows, including a combination of Working Girl and Die Hard called “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl,” and playing characters, including a promotional mascot for the restaurant named Beefsquatch. The youngest member of the family is Louise (voiced by Kristen Schaal), the devious schemer of the bunch. Louise is always the one to get her and her older siblings into trouble or to challenge authority, including that of their school guidance counselor Mr. Frond (voiced by David Herman of Office Space fame). She is always seen wearing a pair of pink bunny ears.
Much like what made those early seasons of The Simpsons work, it’s the focus on the family that I think makes Bob’s Burgers stand out from the far more cynical dynamics of shows like Family Guy and South Park. On Bob’s Burgers, Bob and Linda encourage and support their children in situations that would likely prompt a “shut up, Meg” from the parents on Family Guy, for example. Much like The Simpsons before it, Bob’s Burgers introduces a wonderful supporting cast of eclectic characters, including frequent restaurant customer and friend of the family Teddy (voiced by Larry Murphy), a goofy but sincere handyman who is shown to be very loyal to the Belchers; the Belchers’ eccentric landlord Mr. Fischoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline) and his brother Felix (voiced by Zach Galifianakis); Linda’s crazy-cat-lady sister Gayle (voiced by Megan Mullally); and jealous health inspector Hugo (voiced by Sam Seder), who is Linda’s former fiancé.
It was easy to get hooked to the show in the early seasons, particularly when most of the show’s run was on Netflix. The show had a wit and easy accessibility about it that I found incredibly endearing, and which helped to elevate it to cult status. Over the show’s twelve season-run thus far, there have been such standout episodes as Tina convincing the family to go to “Equestra Con,” clearly modeled on the “brony” culture that emerged around My Little Pony, as well as one where Bob and Louise attempt to reunite the father-daughter stars of their favorite samurai movie series from Japan. A personal favorite episode is “O.T.: The Outside Toilet,” a take-off on E.T. where Gene discovers and “befriends” a top-of-the-line, high-tech talking toilet voiced by Jon Hamm.
In yet another similarity to The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers has also recently made a leap to the big screen, and I can report that the result is as entertaining and funny as it is sweet. The Bob’s Burgers Movie tells the story of a massive sinkhole that develops in front of the restaurant, preventing customers from coming in right as a loan that the family took out is due. However, in an attempt to prove to herself and others how brave she is, Louise is lowered into the sinkhole where she and her siblings stumble upon a years-old mystery that the sinkhole might just hold the answer to, and which might just save the restaurant in the process.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie feels like it has the appropriate heavier stakes for a theatrical outing such as this. The animation is cleaner, crisper, and generally looks better than what you’re likely to see in a typical episode. And while, admittedly, one of my least favorite aspects of the show are the musical renditions or occasional musical episodes that air, I thought the few songs in the movie were relatively well done.
The movie captures the joy, family comradery, and most especially, the side-splitting humor of the show. Despite how many times I howled at the movie’s jokes, I even found myself fighting back tears as the origins of Louise’s pink bunny ears was revealed. It is absolutely a winning installment for die-hard fans of the show such as myself, but I think it would also serve well as an introduction to newcomers or those who might’ve seen an episode or two in passing.
With The Bob’s Burgers Movie, the show enters the rarified air that only a few other animated series have accomplished, among them Transformers, Beavis and Butt-Head, South Park, Rugrats, and yes, The Simpsons: having a successful theatrical movie while the series’ run is still ongoing. I hope it serves as evidence of the show’s inherent strengths and proof that the show still has more than enough to offer more than a decade into its existence.