On the first day of summer, a slacking high school student, Dexter Reed (Kenan Thompson), takes his mother's car on a joyride while she is on a business trip and accidentally crashes into and damages the car of his teacher, Mr. Wheat (Sinbad). Dexter is in danger of going to jail, as he does not have a driver's license or insurance. But Mr. Wheat agrees to let Dexter pay for the damages to both cars in exchange for not calling the police on Dexter. With the damages estimated at $1,900, Dexter is forced to get a summer job. After being dismissed from Mondo Burger for insulting the manager, Kurt Bozwell (Jan Schweiterman), he ends up finding employment at Good Burger where he meets and reluctantly befriends dimwitted Ed (Kel Mitchell) and a host of other colorful employees. Initially neither of them are aware that it was Ed who inadvertently caused Dexter's car accident.
The survival of the smaller Good Burger is threatened by a nearby newly opened Mondo Burger with its fancy decor and oversized burgers but Good Burger is saved by Ed's new secret sauce. Upon realizing that Ed caused his car accident, and learning from Mr. Wheat that the true damages from the accident exceed the original $1,900 estimate, Dexter takes advantage of Ed to make money off the secret sauce in order to pay off his debt sooner. Ed signs a contract that gives Dexter 80% of his profits.
Ed's sauce vastly improves Good Burger's sales and draws the attention of Kurt Bozwell, who wants it for Mondo Burger. Kurt fails at luring Ed to Mondo Burger at a higher wage, and sending Roxanne (Carmen Electra) to seduce the sauce recipe from Ed.
When a dog refuses to eat a discarded Mondo Burger instead of a Good Burger, Ed and Dexter become suspicious and decide to investigate. Disguised as fashionable women, the two infiltrate Mondo Burger's kitchen and discover that their burgers are being artificially enhanced with Triampathol, an illegal chemical; Kurt kidnaps them, and calls a man named Wade who has them committed to an asylum called Demented Hills so they can't tell the public.
Threatened by the success of Ed's sauce, Kurt breaks into Good Burger after hours and taints Ed's secret sauce with shark poison, but is confronted by Otis (Abe Vigoda), an elderly Good Burger employee who was sleeping on the premises, leading him to commit Otis to Demented Hills as well. After informing Ed and Dexter about Kurt's scheme, the three of them manage to escape Demented Hills and steal an ice cream truck to drive them back to Good Burger, arriving just narrowly in time to prevent anyone from eating the poisoned sauce.
Ed and Dexter then break into Mondo Burger to expose their chemically induced burgers to the police. Dexter creates a diversion, during which Ed tries to take a can of Triampathol, but clumsily knocks one into the meat grinder. Inspired, Ed pours the entire supply into the grinder. Meanwhile, Kurt has captured Dexter, and is about to do away with him when Ed arrives bearing an empty can. Kurt mocks Ed's presumed foolishness, whereupon Ed snidely comments that the can wasn't empty when he found it. Chaos ensues in the Mondo Burger building; the burgers are now exploding due to overuse of Triampathol.
In the aftermath, Kurt is arrested for using the illegal substance and Mondo Burger is destroyed, with an artificial burger destroying Mr. Wheat's newly repaired car as well. Dexter also tears up the contract he formed with Ed and tells him that he gets to keep all the profits from his sauce. Ed and Dexter then walk back to Good Burger where they are both praised by the other employees as heroes for saving the restaurant.Kenan Thompson as Dexter Reed, a sixteen-year-old high school student who desires to slack during his summer vacation.
Kel Mitchell as Ed, the inept, teen cashier of Good Burger.
Abe Vigoda as Otis, an elderly Good Burger employee who cooks working as the fryer and also gets caught up in some of Ed and Dexter's adventures.
Jan Schweiterman as Kurt Bozwell, the C.E.O. and restaurant owner of Mondo Burger who will stop at nothing to make his food chain number one.
Sinbad as Mr. Wheat, Dexter's teacher who demands money from him for car damage.
Shar Jackson as Monique, a Good Burger employee who scolds Dexter for using Ed's gullibility to steal most of his money, but eventually becomes his girlfriend.
Dan Schneider as Mr. Baily, the owner and manager of Good Burger.
Ron Lester as Spatch, the head fry cook of Good Burger.
Lori Beth Denberg as Connie Muldoon, a customer whose extremely complex orders are too difficult for Ed to memorize.
Josh Server as Fizz, the drive-thru employee of Good Burger.
Ginny Schreiber as Deedee, one of the 2 female employees at Good Burger who is a vegetarian.
Linda Cardellini as Heather, an insane girl in Demented Hills that has feelings for Ed.
Shaquille O'Neal as Himself
George Clinton as Dancing Crazy, a Demented Hills patient.
Robert Wuhl as an Angry Customer
Carmen Electra as Roxanne, a henchwoman of Kurt who tries, but fails, to seduce Ed into telling his secret sauce recipe.
Marques Houston as Jake, Dexter's high school friend.
J. August Richards as Griffen, one of Kurt's right hand men.
Hamilton Von Watts as Troy, Kurt's other right-hand man
Wendy Worthington as the Demented Hills nurse.
Floyd Levine as Ice cream man
Most of the film's scenes were filmed along Glendora Avenue in West Covina, California in March 1997. The building known as "Good Burger" was filmed at a restaurant currently known as "Peter's El Loco" 437 Glendora Ave., West Covina, CA. Meanwhile, Mondo Burger was located across the street at the Samantha Courtyard shopping center, with extra details added to the facade for the film. Ed's house is located on 959 East Topeka Street, in Pasadena, California.
A soundtrack containing hip hop, R&B, funk, and punk music was released on July 15, 1997 by Capitol Records. It peaked at 101 on the Billboard 200 and 65 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
The Action League Now! episode, "Rock-a-Big Baby" was released prior to the film's screening.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $7.1 million, finishing #5 at the box head. It went on to gross $23.7 million. The film was released in the United Kingdom on February 13, 1998, and only managed to reach #14.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 32%, based on reviews from thirty eight critics, along with the consensus reading, "Good Burger might please hardcore fans of the 1990s Nickelodeon TV series that launched leads Kenan and Kel to stardom, but for all others, it will likely prove a comedy that is neither satisfyingly rare nor well done."
Lisa Alspector of Chicago Reader gave the film a negative review, and wrote "The perceived notion that kids want their movies fast and furious is barely in evidenced in this 1997 comedy, a laboriously slow suburban adventure in which a teenager's summer of leisure slips through his fingers when he has to get a job—an experience that proves almost life threatening because of the cutthroat competition between two burger joints."
Andy Seiler of USA Today gave this film a score of 2/4, saying that "Good Burger is not very well done, but it does have energy."
Leonard Klady of Variety enjoyed the film and wrote "The meat of the piece is definitely FDA cinematically approved, and perfect if you like this brand of entertainment with the works."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote "It didn't do much for me, but I am prepared to predict that its target audience will have a good time." He gave the film two out of four stars.
Retrospective reviews well after the initial release have noted its continued popularity; Nathan Rabin, writing for Rotten Tomatoes, said it "obviously connected with a lot of children at the time of the film's release and holds up surprisingly well 18 years later." Courtney Eckerle echoed "the 90s generation will never forget [this deliciously terrible movie]" and Tara Aquino of Mental Floss called it "a silly cult hit that's indelibly a part of Generation Y."
Paramount released the film on VHS on February 17, 1998, and on DVD on May 27, 2003. Warner Home Video (who releases Paramount titles on DVD and Blu-ray under license, as Paramount themselves have moved to digital-only distribution) reissued Good Burger on DVD on September 24, 2013.
The DVD releases lack special features. The film has not been released on Blu-ray yet, unlike most of the films from Nickelodeon. The only official HD version of the film is available on Netflix.