The Bob’s Burgers Movie: A perfectly pleasant way to pass the time

Spin-off of ‘nicecore’ animated TV sitcom will please fans but is unlikely to make new ones

The Bob's Burgers Movie
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Director: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Cert: PG
Genre: Animation
Starring: H Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Zach Galifianakis, Kevin Kline
Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins

Over the last decade and a bit, Bob’s Burgers has evolved into one of the key texts in the evolving genre of “nicecore”. You know what we mean. Shows that resist grab-your-sides comedy for reassuring surges of Ovaltiney warmth. Ted Lasso, Superstore, later Parks and Recreation? You’re already smiling. But you may not be laughing.

The animated show, following the adventures of the Belcher family, fast-food restaurateurs from a maritime US city, the animated show boasts a structure that looks similar to a hundred conventionally formed sitcoms. Bob and Linda are harassed parents. Tina, Gene and Louise are the differently troubled children. The twist is that they do not hate one another – not even in the sublimated, opaquely affectionate fashion of the Simpsons. The family mostly gets on. During the Trump years the salve was greatly appreciated.

The amiable big-screen spin-off will satisfy fans but – unlike, say, The Inbetweeners Movie – is unlikely to win over those unfamiliar with the show’s pianissimo pleasures. There is some widening of the frame, but The Bob’s Burger’s Movie plays very much like an episode from the series (there is certainly, thank heavens, no attempt at cross-medium empire building in the style of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). We get at least one unexpected origin story, but nothing dramatically alters our opinion of the characters.

The story begins with a mysterious prologue involving an obscure death. In the present, Louise – the one with the rabbit-ears hat – is smarting about being called a “baby” at school and Bob is fretting after being denied a bank loan. The dangers become more serious when a huge sink hole opens in front of the store. How can they increase their earnings when the outlet now opens on to an abyss?

As is often the case with such translations, the film features a few decent songs and introduces some celebrity voiceover work. Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis can be heard as squabbling members of the family to whom Bob’s Burgers pays rent.

Ambitions remain limited. You could see the film as typical counter-programming to Top Gun: Maverick – big versus small; old-school animation versus blaring effects – but so cosy and contained is this world here that the films barely seem to exist in the same medium.

A nice film for nice fans of a nice show.

Opens on May 27th

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist

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