PG-13 for mostly innuendo. I suppose that Tina's fantasies get a bit risqué for younger audiences, but there is so little holding this back from being PG. Maybe I'm alone in that, but most of the stuff that is said goes over kids' heads. There is a murder in this one that the kids investigate. And yeah, investigating a murder puts kids in peril. But this is Bob's Burgers we're talking about. It's going to be just a little too PG-13 to show to kids.
DIRECTORS: Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman
Writing about movies that are spin-offs of television shows is tough. Part of me really wants to write about the television show and the other half is about the movie. I mean, I enjoyed writing about all of the Star Trek movies, simply because I think that Star Trek naturally transcends its television roots. But writing about something like The Bob's Burgers Movie is going to be a bit of a challenge. There's a dangerous part of me that wants to write one sentence summarizing my major beef with the movie and bone out. But that's going to be a temptation that I can't allow myself. 1) I'll be disappointed in myself and 2) what if I do it again?
That one sentence? It doesn't feel like a movie. I'm not the only one who said it. Sure, it has that Simpsons Movie animation style that just screams that the folks behind the film got a little more money. (BTW, if you are uncomfortable about the comparison to The Simpsons Movie, strap in because that's the crux of my argument.) But there's almost nothing here that couldn't have been handled in an extended episode of the show. Maybe there's a charm to that. (Be aware, there's a concept swirling around my head now that I'm going to formulate into words.) If The Simpsons Movie is the way to adapt adult television animation into film, then there are some things that we have to presume. The Simpsons Movie added stakes to a story that fundamentally doesn't have stakes. While things happen on the Simpsons occasionally, like Lisa becoming a vegetarian or Maude Flanders dying, the show isn't ever about peril. Each episode, while grandiose compared to real mundane lives, tends to be personal. Bart is worried about getting a bad grade or Homer upsets Marge. Yeah, there are some weird ones, like when Homer goes to space. But a thing that makes episodic comedy is the understanding that you can't upset the apple cart too much. The same thing holds true for Bob's Burgers. If anything, Bob's Burgers relishes (pun intended) the mundaneness of Bob's life. He thrives in his burger shop. While he has some adventures, it's mostly a guy who likes flipping burgers interacting with his quirky family. The jokes stem from music and the straight man dealing with the absurd characters in his life.
So to give Bob's kids a murder mystery to solve may seem epic and cinematic, there is a big safety net attached to that story. The victim is only tangentially associated with Bob. It isn't a member of his family. It isn't even a character from the show. Heck, the format even follows the adult animation model of the protagonists' issues having a remote attachment to what the plot of the episode would be. Bob and Linda, who have perpetual business problems, must pay back a loan that has lapsed. They have a few days to get this money together and the only way that they can raise the money is if Mr. Fischoeder, their landlord, allows them to be late on their rent. To make him change his mind about rent, they must clear him of a murder. That's a lot of steps to get to "Bob and Linda have to raise money", which is a real world problem compared to clearing someone of murder. And, spoiler alert, the murderer isn't even a character associated with the show. As far as I know, the murderer is a new character created for the film. What kind of stakes are those beyond what a normal episode can present? Bob is always worried about losing the business. There's nothing all that new going on there that would merit a movie.
But --and let me work this out on the fly --maybe that's a good thing? I mean, I know it's not. I acknowledge that this film is incredibly forgettable because it takes no risks. But Bob's Burgers has always been the indie darling of Fox. It is aggressively not Family Guy or The Simpsons. Bob and Linda are a happy couple whose humor gets a little twee and quirky from time to time. If anything, Bob's Burgers has worked hard to distance itself from its peers on the Animation Domination block (if it is even called that anymore. We cut cable years ago.) I'm putting myself in Loren Bouchard's shoes right now. His entire career with Bob's Burgers has been to distance himself from The Simpsons. There's a natural comparison. The idea of Homer Simpson as the archetype for adult animation is nothing new. Even Homer is just a version of Fred Flintstone and Fred himself has live-action comparisons that go even further. So if Bob's Burgers has carved itself a niche on television, why shouldn't it be gutsy and be...bland for cinema? I mean, my major complaint is that I like the TV show and this is very much like a normal TV show episode. How is that a bad thing? I can tell you and it's not good. Because the film is so only okay, it makes me question how much I like the show. That's no good because I would have fought to the hilt for this show originally. I mean, it's not must watch TV. But I always knew that Bob's Burgers was something special. Now, I question that. There's only so many times I can see Tina fantasize about Jimmy Jr. Even Gene's jokes tended to land into, "Oh Gene" territory.
Which brings me back to "Why a movie?" Like I mentioned, Bob's Burgers often found its voice in its songs. Each episode of the show seemed to have a musical number or two, accentuating its quirky voice that its compatriots lacked. There are more songs in the film, but why not go full-musical? This is probably the takeaway that all of this writing got me to: Why stay in the safe zone? The Bob's Burgers Movie was an opportunity to celebrate what makes the show special. While The Simpsons Movie put the Simpsons and Springfield in genuine peril, The Bob's Burgers Movie should have gone full musical. Bigger doesn't always have to look the same and Bob's Burgers could have really ramped up what made it something to behold. Instead, we have internal conflict of the week. It's not like Louise always grew upset about being a baby. Gene straight up doesn't have a story for the week, outside of his typical musical frustrations. All of it just seems...the same. There's something to mine out of Bob's Burgers, but it all seems a bit wasted because something was working for the small screen. Ultimately, it didn't translate to the big screen.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.