Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons are indelibly linked. Both strive to highlight the ordinary lives of an American family, and it speaks to the growing class divide and economic downturn that the struggling Belchers represent the new normal, while The Simpsons, with two cars in the garage in a suburban neighbourhood on the salary of a single working man (despite some single episode stories, Marge has remained a stay at home wife), have long been outdated. Bob’s Burgers was attached to The Simpsons – and Family Guy – during Animation Domination, and began as the struggling newbie riding coattails before growing into the more reliable, consistently high quality toon compared to its cousins. They are similar in so many ways, but their movies feel very different.
At its simplest, The Simpsons Movie feels like a movie, while The Bob’s Burgers Movie feels like a long episode of Bob’s Burgers. I said that Bob’s felt like a long episode to my loving, ever supportive wife on the way out of the theatre, and she told me ‘that’s a bit of a lazy critique’, so allow me to explain. The Simpsons Movie is a movie because it feels like everything is bigger. The stakes are bigger, the set pieces are bigger, the emotional moments hit you harder. In The Bob’s Burgers Movie, it doesn’t feel like anything too different to what we’ve seen before.
The central struggle is that the family is short on cash, which is hardly a new premise. Tina is unsure how she feels about Jimmy Jnr, also not new and given so little screentime it feels wedged in, and Gene feels… some kind of undetermined way about his fledgling music career but ultimately decides it’s fun. The only fresh plot is Louise getting over her fear of growing up (or perhaps her fear that she’s not grown up enough), and even that has its emotional core gutted by the apparently irresistible urge to drop a gag every 23 seconds.
I should point out that these aren’t really ‘complaints’, per se. I love Bob’s Burgers, and frequently have watched episodes back to back to back, so the fact the movie functions as a 102 minute long episode is no bad thing. Bob’s Burgers probably had the highest joke to minute ratio of any show I’ve ever seen, and the movie is no exception. The Bob’s Burgers Movie is ultimately a comedy, and it made me laugh out loud a dozen or so times. Mission accomplished. The only people who will watch this are Bob’s Burgers fans and they’re going to enjoy it, so all things considered, the movie is a success. But I still don’t feel like I’ve seen a movie version of Bob’s Burgers, and I can’t help but feel disappointed by that.
The musical numbers are the biggest tease of the whole affair. They are the one thing that goes noticeably bigger on the silver screen, and combined with the much slicker animation this higher budget episode gets, everything about these sequences pops. Considering the film opens with a (pretty solid) song, it feels especially like a disappointment when the rest of the film doesn’t live up to it.
‘Pretty solid’ feels like the perfect description for everything in this movie. It’s consistently funny and looks more polished than a typical episode, but if we think of this as a long episode of Bob’s Burgers, then I’m not sure it makes the overall top ten. It’s no Glued, Where’s My Bob, no Bob Day Afternoon, no Crawl Space. It’s not even The Taking of Funtime One Two Three. This comparison doesn’t really exist with The Simpsons Movie because it’s not an episode of The Simpsons, it’s just the best Simpsons movie we have.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a great time if you’re a Bob’s Burgers fan, but it doesn’t feel any different from watching three or four great Bob’s Burgers episodes in a row. I’m glad it’s here, and I know fans will enjoy it, but it feels like a shame that even with The Bob’s Burgers Movie in theatres, we don’t actually have a Bob’s Burgers movie to enjoy.
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