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THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (PG) (2004)

Nickelodeon Movies/Paramount Pictures

Official Site

Director: Sherm Cohen, Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne

Producers: Derek Drymon, Albie Hecht, Stephen Hillenburg, Julia Pistor, Gina Shay

Written by: Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, Stephen Hillenburg, Paul Tibbett; based on the television series created by Stephen Hillenburg

Cast: Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, David Hasselhoff

Rating:


Lately, I’ve been missing movies that exhibit pure, escapist entertainment. With everything going on in the world and the recent presidential election, filmmakers and Hollywood are so busy trying to push one agenda or another on movie-going audiences. Not that movies should be meaningless or without social relevance, but sometimes it’s nice to go to the cinema and just have a good time without having to worry about all the bullshit you deal with in your daily life. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which will be the first of many features for this hit franchise) achieves this and provides you with a hilarious, fun, fairly wholesome, and above all guilt-free adventure. Who says 2-D animation is dead? SpongeBob proves that wrong.

The story is an extension of the television series and does not offer a backstory for the main characters, dropping the viewer in the world of SpongeBob. While familiarity with the show and the characters helps, one does not need to know absolutely all the nuances of the SpongeBob universe to follow the narrative. After years of loyal service, SpongeBob (Kenny) is finally prepared to ascend from his position of chef for the Krusty Krab and become the new manager for the Krusty Krab 2. However, to the favorite undersea hero’s misfortune, Krusty Krab owner Mr. Krabs (Brown) doesn’t think SpongeBob is mature enough for the task and opts to give the position to the “is he or isn’t he” Squidward Tentacles (Bumpass).

BUT, there is trouble brewing in Bikini Bottom, trouble with a capital P and that stands for PLANKTON (Mr. Lawrence). For more than five years Plankton has tried every evil plan to achieve superiority over his spongy nemesis. So of course the next logical step for whale food is… PLAN Z. After stealing the crown of King Neptune (Tambor), Plankton frames Mr. Krabs for the crime and condemns him to execution unless SpongeBob can return the crown in a week. But SpongeBob and his best dim-witted buddy, Patrick Star (Fagerbakke), are having trouble with the quest because they just can’t grow up. Are they just too kiddie to accomplish their goal and save the town from enslavement by a cycloptic shrimp?

In the end, that’s really the heart of the story—that it is okay for kids to be kids. Adults constantly chide youths for not acting older, but why should they? Kids need to enjoy their childhood and do what kids do. SpongeBob and Patrick need to learn that they don’t need to be grown-ups and naturally have what it takes to take care of business.

The voice acting in the movie is fantastic, and all the dialogue is well written and not cringe-inducing for an animated picture (unlike certain dreck, i.e. Shark Tale). All the original voice actors are in prime form for SpongeBob’s debut feature, especially Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke. Jeffrey Tambor replaces Kevin Michael Richardson as the voice of King Neptune, giving the character an entertaining, ridiculously aristocratic attitude. Baldwin is featured in the film as Dennis, a ruthless biker fish hired by Plankton to put SpongeBob and Patrick out of commission. Scarlett Johannson portrays Neptune’s daughter, Mindy—probably the movie’s most boring and flat character.

Of course, the Hollywood superstars are not the selling point as they would be in a Dreamworks film. Nickelodeon and Paramount realize you only need one thing to get the rears in the seats for a SpongeBob SquarePants movie—SpongeBob SquarePants—and the studios deliver. Sadly, a lot of the favorite supporting players like Sandy (Lawrence), Mrs. Puff, Pearl, and Mr. Krabs are not given much to do since the film focuses mainly on SpongeBob and Patrick, but hopefully audiences will see more of them in the sequels. The worst offender is the total lack of Mer-Man and Barnacle Boy (voiced by Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway respectively in the television series).

Is SpongeBob the best movie of the year? No. It’s probably not even the best animated movie of the year. But the film delivers an enjoyable 90 minutes. Kids will love it, and adults… do not feel too badly about watching it and liking it. As I said, guilt-free entertainment, folks. It’s also nice to watch a movie that isn’t filthy or vulgar. I enjoy “South Park” as much as the next guy, but it is nice to go back and watch animation that is funny without being lewd.

The movie has an eclectic, interesting soundtrack featuring The Shins, Wilco, Ween, Motorhead (?!), and even SpongeBob doing some Dee Snyder. Remember to stay through all the credits. That is if you can survive the barraging montage of waves crashing upon the surf.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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