Combine the anarchic spirit of Spongebob Squarepants with the self-referential smarts of Matt Groening and you might get something a bit like Bob’s Burgers, an animated sitcom that’s knowing, funny and, well, a bit nuts.
Of course, if you’ve been tuning it for any of its 12 Emmy-garlanded seasons to date, you know all that already. But you might still be pleasantly surprised by how well its 22-minute episode format has translated into a movie-length animation that motors along merrily without sacrificing the relatable family dynamics that power the TV show.
If you’re a newcomer, it doesn’t take a whole heap of catching up with: the hangdog, balding Bob Belcher (voiced by H Jon Benjamin) owns a not-wildly-successful burger restaurant in an American seaside town. His upbeat wife and three teen and tweenage kids are going through their own anxieties but stand loyally by. The local bank manager is not as forgiving, though. If his next loan repayment isn’t made imminently, Bob will have garnished his last patty. And the massive sinkhole that just opened in front of the restaurant isn’t helping.
The gag hit rate is high and the plot is Chinatown with pimples
From here, the show’s creator, Loren Bouchard, on hand as co-director with fellow series veteran Bernard Derriman, pinballs dizzyingly away from Bob’s financial woes to send the kids deep into a noirish conspiracy involving a mysterious skeleton, arson, the town’s irate population of carnies and at least one chase involving cars shaped like clams. It’s Chinatown with pimples.
Yes, it’s dotty but it’s also incredibly good-natured, the voice cast is fun (Kristen Schaal, Kevin Kline, Zach Galifianakis, Aziz Ansari all lend their vocal chords) and the hit rate of gags is high. And if you once suffered through The Simpsons Movie, the joys of a small-screen animation staying true to its main preoccupations – here, family dysfunction, growing pains, blue-collar toil, and talking burgers – will be all the richer. Take a bite.
In Australian cinemas May 26, and US and UK theaters May 27.