We’re going to tip-toe way out on a limb here: The folks who will most enjoy “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” are the longtime fans of the TV series that has spawned it, “Bob’s Burgers.”
And there must be more of them than we’d realized, what with the Loren Bouchard-created animated comedy series remaining on the air since its debut on Fox in January 2011. (Honestly, as we’ve gravitated toward a heavy diet of streaming fare, we’re not sure we even knew it was still going.)
The offbeat show about a family-run burger joint is not without its charms, of course. It’s built around the appealing if odd Belcher family led by Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his upbeat wife, Linda (John Roberts). It is rounded out by three children: boy-crazy Tina (Dan Mintz), affable Gene (Eugene Mirman) and precocious Louise (Kristen Schaal).
And yet the appeal would not seem to be broad enough for “Bob’s Burgers” to produce a big-screen affair — and watching said affair serves only to reinforce that idea.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is, at times, cute and clever. Overall, though, this mash-up of a murder mystery and a musical comedy — co-directed by Bouchard and Bernard Derriman and co-written by Bouchard and Nora Smith — isn’t all that engaging.
It begins six years in the past, with the murder of a carnival worker at the wharf down the street from Bob’s Burgers. The skeleton of Cotton Candy Dan is discovered in a giant sinkhole that forms in front of the restaurant due to a water main rupturing.
“It’s that the guy who sold corn dogs?” Linda asks about Cotton Candy Dan, one of the movie’s lines that should be laugh-out-loud material but doesn’t quite land with the desired force.
The more immediate concern of the Belchers is the pending bank-loan payment they can’t afford even before a giant chasm forms in the street just beyond the entrance to their business. After the hole appears, the Belchers are faced with the prospect of the bank repossessing their restaurant equipment and not being able to pay landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) the next month’s rent.
Other regular show guest stars voicing their characters include Gary Cole, as Sergeant Bosco; Larry Murphy, as restaurant frequenter Teddy; and Zach Galifianakis, as Felix Fischoeder, brother of Calvin.
The movie’s greatest asset is the often-deadpanned Benjamin, who’s been giving life to memorable animated characters since late-1990s/early-2000s “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and “Home Movies,” two enjoyable series on which Bouchard worked. (And while Benjamin is good here, if you want to hear him at his best, check out the first several seasons of FX’s “Archer,” on which he voices sex-crazed, alcohol-loving super-spy Sterling Archer. Just fantastic stuff.)
This film’s characters are generally likable — but not enough to make us all that invested in the fate of the restaurant, which we suspect somehow will survive. The kids taking it upon themselves to solve the mystery surrounding the death of the carny isn’t exactly enthralling, either.
Disappointingly, it’s also tough to work up much enthusiasm for the movie’s handful of songs. If anything, the climactic musical number drones on long and aimlessly enough to start turning you against the whole effort.
If it sounds as if we simply have it in for Bouchard and Smith, know we’ve enjoyed several episodes of “Central Park,” the music-heavy animated series on Apple TV+ that they co-created with star Josh Gad.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” undoubtedly will draw endless comparisons to 2007’s “The Simpsons Movie,” a similarly titled theatrical affair that also owed its existence to an animated TV Fox show about an American family of five.
We can’t say whether the former has arrived after its show’s creative peak and represents a significant jump in quality, as the latter did.
We can say it doesn’t feel big enough for the big screen. Long enough, sure, but not big enough.
Maybe it will earn an audience far greater than the show’s loyal fan base, but it’s hard to see a ton of people going for this sandwich’s unusual combination of flavors.
‘THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE’
2 stars (out of 4)
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for rude/suggestive material and language)
Running time: 1:42
How to watch: In theaters Friday
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