' ' Cinema Romantico: Bob's Burgers the Movie

Monday, September 19, 2022

Bob's Burgers the Movie

Of all the arts and entertainment comfort food I consumed during the lockdown portions of the COVID-19 Pandemic, few were as comforting as Loren Bouchard’s long-running animated Fox sitcom “Bob’s Burgers” about a family of five, The Belchers, running a hamburger restaurant in a shabby seaside town. It was funny in that deadpan way I prefer, but what I liked best was how Bouchard neatly balanced the flights of imaginative fancy with 2D animated mundanity. The three kids – Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) – hashed out their dreams and fears and weird obsessions while wiping down menus and refilling ketchup bottles. Linda (John Roberts) was the enthusiastic yin to Bob’s (H. Jon Benjamin) anxious yang, though even Bob tended to voice his own beef creations, a man in love with the place causing all his stress, true comic duality. And even if Bouchard proves he can sustain enough quality jokes and plot machinations for an-hour-and-forty minutes rather than twenty-two in bringing his TV show to the big screen, he does not significantly change the recipe. Such familiarity might prompt the question “Why make it then?” But that’s a Bob kind of concern and in spirit this is a Linda movie, like its makeshift, unlicensed hamburger cart crafted by loyal customer Teddy (Larry Murphy) to peddle burgers on the pier, spreading the cheer to a wider audience, honoring the Burger of the Day of Season 2, Episode 9: “Poutine on the Ritz.”

Its intentions are stated right away in an opening song number called “Sunny Side Up Summer.” If it holds true to the show’s fondness for musical theatre, dancing from the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” choreography school rather than Gene Kelly, it’s also a nifty introduction to the characters for audience newbies just as it establishes the movie’s drama. That includes Louise seeking to certify her bravery in spite of the omnipresent rabbit ears atop her head and Bob and Linda needing to pay the bank all they owe in a single week after being denied a loan extension, the moment when their aspirant Sunny Side Up Summer becomes a burnt omelette. The latter becomes further complicated when a sinkhole suddenly opens up directly outside the restaurant, leaving customers with no way inside except through the ostensible scenic alley. That’s what Linda call it, of course, trying to keep a little optimism, even as Bob stands at the window looking for customers that will never come, his wide animated eyes like the Irish Setter from the old Far Side cartoon where depressed looks like pensive which looks like suicidal. There are certain faces that never fail to leave me in stitches: Larry David looking quizzical, Michael Shannon looking vexed, Bob Belcher looking depressed looking pensive looking suicidal. But then, the sinkhole is the conduit to murder mystery in which a body found at the bottom is fingered at the victim of the Belchers’ landlord Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline, his quizzical snobbishness once again brilliantly embodying the thoughtlessness of the rich). There might be a dead body but despite the frequent shadows Bouchard adds to his animation, the ensuing movie in which the mystery and loan extension converge suggests something more like action-adventure spectacle.

“Bob’s Burgers” episodes often homage movies, from “A River Runs Through Bob” to “Paraders of the Lost Float,” and watching its own movie I kept thinking of Season 3’s “The Deepening” in which a mechanical shark terrorizes the town. A hole briefly opens up in the street outside Bob’s restaurant there too, demonstrating the movie’s penchant for recycling bits from past episodes, giving the entire production the whiff of Robert Rodriguez’s “Desperado” to his “El Mariachi,” the former a much more glossy facsimile of the latter. “Bob’s Burgers the Movie” is not that slick, and has great set pieces to recommend it, from a (clam) car chase to a treehouse escape that balance the edge of surprisingly suspenseful and very funny. But there was a weirdness to “The Deepening,” embodied best in Tina’s affection for the shark, that “Bob’s Burgers the Movie” unfortunately sidelines for a straighter edge. It’s a family-friendly affair, which isn’t all bad since Bouchard excels at evincing family-friendly, brought home in the amazing sequence where The Belchers are on the verge of being buried alive, at once amusing and honestly affecting, served with the most endearing fart joke you’ll hear ever hear.

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