The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie review by Mike Long

For decades, television was considered a runner-up to movies in term of credibility. Many actors began their careers on the small-screen and made their way to the big-screen. However, over the last decade, we've seen many actors going in the opposite direction; leaving filmwork to star in their own series. However, movies are still the ultimate goal for many, and the greatest compliment that a TV show can get is to be turned into a major motion picture. (All of the remakes of old shows aside.) The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie illustrates this phenomenon and shows that even a lowly sponge can aspire to be a movie star.

If the name "SpongeBob Squarepants" means nothing to you, then I'll give you a quick rundown. SpongeBob Squarepants is a TV show which airs on Nickelodeon. The action takes place at the bottom of the sea, in a community called Bikini Bottom. Here lives SpongeBob Squarepants (voiced by Tom Kenny), a sea sponge (who is actually shaped like a kitchen sponge) who is apparently an adult, but has the mind and innocence of a child. SpongeBob's best friend is a dim-witted starfish named Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), and they love to play together, which usually annoys their curmudgeonly neighbor, Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass). SpongeBob works as a fry-cook at a restaurant called The Krusty Krab, which is owned by the money-hungry Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown). Mr. Krabs' arch-rival is Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence), whose Chum Bucket restaurant has never had a customer.

As The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie opens, Mr. Krabs is set to open his new establishment, The Krusty Krab 2. SpongeBob is very excited about this event, as he's convinced that he'll be named manager of the eatery. Yet, his little heart is broken when Squidward is given the job. Mr. Krabs explains that he couldn't give SpongeBob the position because of the sponge's lack of maturity. Meanwhile, Plankton has devised a new plan to take over The Krusty Krab. He steals the crown of King Neptune (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor) and frames Mr. Krabs for the crime. Neptune is prepared to execute Krabs for this transgression, but his daughter Mindy (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) convinces her father to be lenient. Eager to prove his maturity, SpongeBob steps forward and volunteers to retrieve Neptunes crown, which is rumored to have been taken to the distant and foreboding Shell City. So, SpongeBob and Patrick set out on an adventure across the sea floor to save Mr. Krabs and show the world that they arent kids.

The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie is one of those films that truly hard to review for a general audience, because the bottom line is, is you enjoy the television show, then youll like this movie. If youre not familiar with the TV program, you may be a bit lost here. I hate to make things that basic, but its the truth.

An easier question to answer is, Is The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie better than the TV show? The response is, Not really. Aesthetically speaking, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie certainly looks better than its television counterpart. The animation is much richer and more detailed. Although this is traditional 2-D animation, it has a nice 3-D quality. The colors look fantastic and leap off of the screen. Also, the sound is nice and gives the movie a cinematic feel. But, other than that, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie may as well be a really long episode of the show. This film falls into the trap that so many other TV-to-film translations have experienced -- the filmmakers tried to make the story bigger, and left out the little things that make the show so great. My biggest problem with The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie was the exclusion of the supporting characters. One of the shows charms is the diverse array of characters that it has, and its always great to see SpongeBob interact with them, most notably Squidward and Sandy. Yet, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie focuses mainly on SpongeBob and Patrick. Squidward is in the film for a few moments and Sandy appears in only a few shots. And SpongeBobs trusted pet snail, Gary is barely in the movie. And while youngsters may enjoy the road trip plotline, this will feel very cliched to most adults. The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie does feature some celebrity voices with Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson, and Alec Baldwin, but they bring little to the film, and Johanssons voice has no emotion (anyone could have done this performance). However, the cameo by David Hasselhoff is well-done.

Dont let my nitpicking lead you to believe that The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie is a complete disaster, as it isnt. As with the show, the movie revels in incredibly sophomoric humor that is often infectious. But, there is also a nice sly streak to the film and there are many clever jokes that will go over the heads of younger viewers, but will delight adults (without being raunchy). The movie also has some nice moments which spoof live-action films that will bring a smile to film buffs. I should complain about the fact that the writers of The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie clearly had no idea how to end the movie, but I cant as the finale is so inexplicably loopy that I was doubled-over in laughter (and I appreciated the nod to children of the 80s). Those expecting The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie to be the ultimate SpongeBob experience will join me in being disappointed, but the movie is funny and worth seeing.

The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie floats onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The movie is coming to DVD in two separate editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Im not sure if this transfer was taken from a digital or film source, but it looks fantastic. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. There are no overt signs of edge enhancements and the animation is very smooth, showing no stuttering. Artifacting is kept to a bare minimum. The colors look fantastic and the image has a nice depth. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Also, the few songs in the film sound fine. There is a nice use of surround sound from this track, but like many kids movies, the subwoofer action is limited and the bass is often muted.

The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie DVD contains few extras, none of which are spectacular. We start with The Absorbing Tale Behind The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (18 minutes). This making-of featurette contains comments from director/creator Stephen Hillenburg as well as the cast, as they describe the story of the film and the characters. The best part is the examination of the huge Hasselhoff dummy which was used in the film. This thing TOTALLY FREAKED ME OUT! Case of the Sponge Bob (15 minutes) is an educational extra in which Hillenburg and Jean-Michel Cousteau offer footage of the real aquatic counterparts to our animated friends. Saving the Surf is a 4-minute segment in which members of the Surfrider Foundation talk about the importance of the ocean. The extras are rounded out by 20 minutes of Animatics and the Teaser Trailer for The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (the submarine one) which is letterboxed at 1.85:1.


7 out of 10 Jackasses

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