Sometimes Hollywood takes a break from rehashing old movies in order to make movie rehashes of popular video games instead. Most of the time these are based on action games, either involving zombies or big-breasted women with long braids. These modern games have life-like graphics and storyline formats that can keep addicts engaged for so long that they forget how to eat and piss. The stories they tell can easily be adapted into nice boring movies with over-the-top CGI effects. Old-school games, on the other hand, usually just feature a bunch of awkwardly moving shapes performing menial tasks. These tasks are often so nonsensical that it is hard to imagine how they could be turned into a coherent movie. What you should basically expect is that, aside from the title of the film and the names of some of the characters, the movie won’t have anything to do with the game.
One would probably assume that the plot for a movie called Burger Time would center on a chef at a restaurant, maybe working hard to impress a food critic or something. An equally predictable scenario might involve food coming to life when some kind of radioactive ingredient is added. You’d think it would take an absurd premise to make an audience believe in murderous hot dog and egg people. Surprisingly, Burger Time: The Movie doesn’t take place in a restaurant, and there is no explanation given for the existence of the food monsters.
Christian Bale stars as Peter Pepper, a Louisiana PI with a dark past. His only apparent link to the food industry is that he wears a chef’s hat instead of the typical double-brimmed Sherlock Holmes-type cap. Nobody questions this because they know he’s kind of insane, but they also know he gets results. Peter jokes that the TV show Monk has worked wonders for the public image of loony gumshoes. In typical film noir fashion, the story begins with Peter being hired by a southern belle (Amy Poehler) whose sister has recently died. Even though there were 25 bullets found in her sister’s back, police think the death was a suicide. Belle does not agree with this conclusion. She tells Peter how her sister had recently been hanging out with a gang of food monsters in the French Quarter. Peter knows this gang all too well—especially the leader, Mr. Egg. Their relationship is a part of Peter’s “dark past” that he refuses to talk about, which plays a pivotal roll in the film’s climax. Andy Richter gives a breath-taking performance as Mr. Egg, Don Cheadle plays his bodyguard Mr. Hot Dog, and Macaulay Culkin plays his estranged son Mr. Pickle. Given the studio’s insistence on using mascot-type costumes instead of CGI, the believability of the entire film essentially falls on the shoulders of these three brilliant actors. Director Penny Marshall, to her credit, did her part to overcome the limitations of poor production design by insisting on good, clean dialogue and subtle line delivery. Burger Time: The Movie is not big on action, it isn’t very funny, and it is not much of a drama. However, it does everything else exceptionally well. If every movie based on a video game was this good, I am certain the genre would surpass “remakes” as Hollywood’s choice of inspiration.