Just in time for Memorial Day counter-programming to Tom Cruise and his overcompensating weapons of war, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” brings creator and co-director Loren Bouchard’s beloved Belcher clan to the big screen. After 12 seasons on the Fox Network, the family of five who run a burger joint in an unnamed beach town get to choose their own PG-13-rated adventure, one that’s less rude than the MPAA’s warning would indicate. Though capable of an adolescent level of raunch, “Bob’s Burgers” has always managed a more unabashed sweetness than its colleagues “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” This despite the series being built, to the point of bemused discomfort, upon the day-to-day tensions and personality conflicts that befall every family. Nobody knows how to push buttons better than a loved one.
The gang’s all here — well, mostly. There’s hapless patriarch Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), his boisterous, Noo Joisey-accented wife, Linda (John Roberts), and their three kids, eldest teen Tina (Dan Mintz), youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal), and middle child Gene (Eugene Mirman). The Belchers’ eye-patch-wearing landlord (and owner of much of the town), Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), is also present, along with his brother, Felix (Zach Galifianakis), and their untrustworthy lawyer relative, Grover (David Wain). Teddy (Larry Murphy), Bob’s Burgers’ occasional handyman and best customer, puts his skills and support to use by building a mobile cart to peddle Bob’s wares. As for Bob’s business nemesis, Jimmy Pesto, owner of “Jimmy Pesto’s Pizzeria” across the street, he is barely seen and never heard from (Google the actor who plays him for ideas on why that is). However, his son, Jimmy Pesto Jr. (Benjamin, again) is around to tantalize classmate Tina with the flat butt she’s been obsessed with throughout the series’ run.
The animation looks surprisingly impressive on the big screen, while still maintaining the show’s garish, eye-searing color scheme and penchant for denoting body hair as an unruly Morse Code of dashes and dots. The red frames of Linda’s fabulous glasses pop, as does the ubiquitous pink bunny-eared cap that Louise wears. That bunny cap sets one of the movie’s subplots in motion: The normally confident Louise is called a baby by her classmates, tipping her into a tailspin of doubt. True to character, she decides to prove them wrong.
Lucky for her, a massive sinkhole has just opened up in front of Bob’s Burgers, making entry nearly impossible and sending her parents into paroxysms of worry about their livelihood. While her folks hatch a mobile restaurant plan (complete with a questionable burger mascot in a bikini) to save their business, Louise discovers a dead body in the sinkhole. The evidence implicates Calvin in the murder, but Louise suspects otherwise. She and her siblings set off to find the truth. Bedlam ensues, some of which should come with a mild warning for those who are claustrophobic.
There are Easter eggs for faithful fans, but anyone can walk into “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” without any prior knowledge of the show. Bouchard, his co-director, Bernard Derriman, and his co-writer, Nora Smith, do a good job opening up the Belchers’ universe to welcome in newcomers. Everyone has their own parallel storyline: Tina’s fantasy life gives insight into her compulsions, Gene’s musical convictions are well-established, and Louise’s quest is self-explanatory. As an assist, the characters turn exposition into a few production numbers with excellent songs. The choreography skews closer to a high school musical than to Bob Fosse, but that’s a major part of the charm.
The true measure of greatness for a film adapted from a TV series is whether viewers are getting something in the theater that they could not get at home. At 102 minutes, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” feels more like five continuous episodes stitched together than something new that’s been abstracted from its origins. The one place it dares to outshine the show is in its emotional moments, where it allows the heart that has always been beating under its surface to grow three sizes bigger. That buys a lot of goodwill and, along with the film being consistently funny, makes it worth the investment of a ticket. For all their bickering, teasing, and conflicts, the Belchers have each other — and this movie is not ashamed to hammer that message home.
THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE
Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman. Written by Bouchard and Nora Smith. Starring H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, Zach Galifianakis, David Wain, and Kevin Kline. At Boston theaters, suburbs. 102 minutes. PG-13 (mild violence; nothing too saucy otherwise, though one character likes big butts and she cannot lie).