The Bob’s Burgers Movie is delightful. It feels just like a supersize Bob’s Burgers episode, and the core cast is in top form, despite having to record at least partially from home during the pandemic. Beloved side characters pop up, like police sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) and gold-digger diva Fanny (Jordan Peele), but show creator Loren Bouchard, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, wisely steers clear of overstuffing the narrative with too many guest stars. The movie expands on inside jokes and show staples, from Tina’s erotic friend fiction to Louise’s attachment to her bunny ears. But there is one glaring issue that has bugged me since I left the theater: Why wasn’t there more music?
Bob’s Burgers fans might have assumed that the animated sitcom’s first movie would naturally take the form of a musical. Original music is essential to Bob’s Burgers, so much so that the show has released two albums and three holiday EPs over its 12-year run. Every episode has at least one new song, and some of the show’s best episodes are full musicals (“Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl,” “Flu-ouise,” “The Bleakening Pts. 1 and 2”). With the expanded budget and time frame of a movie production, it would have felt natural for Bouchard and longtime Bob’s Burgers collaborators Nora Smith and Bernard Derriman to go all out with a musical extravaganza. Neglecting to do so would be like Bob neglecting to come up with a burger-of-the-day pun.
It’s not that The Bob’s Burgers Movie is songless. There are three musical numbers (four if you count a very short performance by Gene’s band, the Itty Bitty Ditty Committee) evenly spaced across its 102-minute run-time. But that almost feels more egregious than no songs at all. After the first song, a bouncy jam about the Belchers’ plans for a “sunny-side-up summer,” I thought: Hell, yeah, this is a musical! But the next song didn’t come until nearly halfway through the movie, when the Belcher kids seek out the carnies who work at Wonder Wharf, the seaside theme park, who sing and dance about “lucky ducks.” By the time Gene’s long-awaited concert arrived, I was as unsatisfied as I am after eating a fast-food burger.
The songs of Bob’s Burgers set the tone of the world, underscore emotional moments, and, of course, provide fertile ground for jokes. Music is how Gene and Linda bond (in several episodes, but most notably in “Sleeping With the Frenemy), how Louise explores her frustration (see “Flu-ouise”), and how Bob achieves a state of desperate euphoria (“Something Old, Something New, Something Bob Caters for You”). The heightened feeling of a musical number opens up the characters’ inner worlds, and there are several opportunities for that in The Bob’s Burgers Movie: Maybe a sweet duet between Tina and Fantasy Jimmy Junior that articulates her “summer boyfriend” fears, or an angry march for Louise in which she hammers home that she’s not a baby. Perhaps a silly song from Teddy when he introduces his homemade food cart.
I mean, three songs?? There are more songs in most musical episodes of Bob’s Burgers! I have to imagine that a full musical was planned but had to be scrapped due to pandemic restrictions. When asked about the film’s musical numbers, Bouchard told IndieWire, “We wanted to do it bigger and make as much of a spectacle as we could manage, to make it fill the speakers and fill the room.” While that’s true of each individual number on its own — the animation team went all out on the dancing sequences, filling the big screen with colorful bodies moving in rhythm — they’re too spread out for the movie to feel like a musical “spectacle.” It’s a real bummer, but I can think of a way for Bouchard and the entire Bob’s Burgers team to make it up to us: Stage and film a full production of “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl,” to be released in theaters summer 2023. It’s what we deserve.