‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ is as good as the TV show

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(3.5 stars)

Fox’s animated television series “Bob’s Burgers,” centered on restaurateur Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his titular beachside burger joint, may be something of an acquired taste, like the many bizarre variations of the fast-food staple that Bob has developed over 12 seasons. (Salvador Cauliflower Burger, anyone?) Hank Stuever of The Post called the series, when it debuted in 2011, “unnecessarily vulgar and deliberately boring”.

Despite this, the show has continued to develop a cult following, proof of which seems to be the new feature film based on it, titled, quite simply, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie”.

But in our dismissive description of 2011 lies a kernel of truth. The odd appeal of “Burgers,” both the show and the movie, lies precisely in its mix of the mundane and the pointless (or, to be kinder, the absurd). It’s a proprietary seasoning blend, savory to those who have developed an appetite for it, perhaps sickening to others, that’s lovingly curated in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.”

The story begins with the deliberately boring – Bob’s efforts to get a loan repayment extension from a humorless bank clerk – before moving quickly to the deliciously bizarre: an unsolved six-year-old, which is only revealed when a cavernous sinkhole opens up in the road in front of Bob’s establishment, providing not only the skeletal remains of a boardwalk carny, but an opportunity for the three children to Bob’s school age to investigate his disappearance, risking their own lives.

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The three amateur sleuths are Louise Belcher (Kristen Schaal), the prematurely insistent youngest daughter; middle brother Gene (Eugene Mirman), a lovable, slightly brooding, and arguably fluid aspiring musician, whose band is called Itty Bitty Ditty Committee; and Tina Belcher (Dan Mintz), who dreams of dating the son of Bob’s pizzeria rival across the street. (Benjamin also voices the soon-to-be boyfriend, as well as several other characters, without really trying to make any of them seem terribly distinct from each other. That’s part of the low-rent charm. Come on -y.)

One of the show’s hallmarks has been its regular celebrity cameos, which have included comedic talent from Keegan-Michael Key to Sarah Silverman. But those hoping for a who’s who of Simpsons-esque voice actors would appear in the film may be disappointed. The most prominent cast members are Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis, who reprise their usual roles as Bob’s hard-hearted landlady Calvin Fischoeder and his beloved, possibly psychopathic brother, Felix.

One of the best performances, however, has always been from John Roberts, who was nominated for a 2015 Emmy for his portrayal of Bob’s wife, Linda. It’s a characterization that Roberts says is based on her own mother, and Linda’s tireless, heartbreaking enthusiasm is a mainstay of the film’s story. Despite all the chaos that ensues, including the possibility of being buried alive, Linda is “unstop-timist”, to use her own no-word.

I would say Linda is the most iconic character of why “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (and the show) works. We all know and have probably been annoyed by someone like her. This is not evidence of the mundane, but of recognizable human behavior, albeit rendered in a cartoonish style that is both crude and exaggerated. Even when the film’s action takes us to a slum called Carnyapolis, home to the scum of the Wonder Wharf amusement park – now celebrating its 80th anniversary, or “octa-wharfiversary” – or a spooky hidden lair under the pier , “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” feels as real as it is surreal.

In terms that Bob (and maybe only Bob fans) can understand: this movie may not be the Meatsiah – beef tartare in a medium-sized burger inside beef Wellington – but it’s pretty well done.

PG-13. In neighborhood theatres. Contains coarse and suggestive material and language. 102 minutes.

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