Directed By Tim Hill
Starring – Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown
The Plot – Set before the events of the television series, SpongeBob (Kenny) goes on a trip to Kamp Koral and meets some new friends. However, when his pet snail Gary (Also Kenny) gets kidnapped by Poseidon (Matt Berry) and taken to the Lost City of Atlantic City, he and his new best friend Patrick (Fagerbakke) must go on a rescue mission to save him from the dastardly plan of Poseidon before it is too late. The movie will also reveal the first time our beloved characters (as kids) met at Camp…a magical moment that brings meaning to the power of true friendship.
Rated PG for rude humor, some thematic elements, and mild adult language
– Double threat. As has been the case for the past twenty years, Kenny and Fagerbakke instill a rapid fire banter and energetic chemistry in their deliveries that really brings out the most in their animated designs, but beyond that bring to life these familiar personalities that never stunt on familiarity. For Kenny, it’s the distortion that he can do to bend his vocal range that easily immerses him in the role, and solidifies him as the only man capable of attaining Spongebob’s distinct level of audible identity. For Fagerbakke, his monotonous deliveries and delayed retorts makes Patrick easily the favorite for fans of the show, outlining a lovable oaf whose friendship with Spongebob is above all else the single greatest element that the property has going for it. I’m happy that these series of films have attained the level of familiarity that the show made famous, and that even after twenty years these performances from this duo haven’t aged in ways that allude to either of them phoning it in at this point.
– Dreamlike animation. There’s a vibrancy in the varied animation styles that not only enhances this for the big screen presentation, but also plays coherently into the 1:85.1 aspect ratio that does a wonderful job stretching the landscapes accordingly. As to where the TV show uses typical illustrated animation to inspire its characters and resounding properties, the film adaptations have reveled in digital generation that has lucidly transferred these characters in the most beautiful of plush designs. The color scheme in particular of everything presented offers a three-dimensional pop towards the screen that candycoats our intoxication for this underwater town of Bikini Bottom. When the story leaves this setting in favor of its road trip narrative, it imposes a lot of still frame live action photography in the backgrounds of its digitized characterization. It allows our characters to stand out in a way that feels more natural than them in animated illustration form otherwise wouldn’t, and gives a distinct identity to the Spongebob films that elevates their presentations beyond their television origins.
– Big name cameos. Once again we are treated to a series of celebrity appearances and guest vocal work that enhances the mainstream appeal of the product, and offers these once in a lifetime interactions that transcend the context of the picture. The obvious, as seen in the trailer, is Keanu Reeves as Sage, a wise tumbleweed prophet who is sent to guide Spongebob and Patrick on their journey. Aside from Reeves professionalism and dry deliveries making the most of the appearance, it’s the length to which the character is included that makes this mean more than your typical cameo, offering much more material than what was included in the trailer. Aside from Reeves, we are also treated to live-form appearances from Danny Trejo and Snoop Dogg, as well as influential vocal work from Tiffany Haddish, Awkwafina, and the great Reggie Watts. Each of these work wonderfully for the promise of their respective characters, never feeling like forced inclusions because of the enhancement of a 60 million dollar budget at their disposal.
– Musical surprises. Hans Zimmer helped to score this movie. That’s right, Christopher Nolan’s right hand man responsible for immersing us in some of the most fantastically bombastic scores of all time lent his musical capabilities to a Nickelodeon cartoon, and brought forth some unique spins because of such. First off, the urgency of a Nolan score is still certainly there, but the light-hearted atmosphere that he is encompassing allows Hans the ability to indulge in the embellishing side of his consistently ominous audible accompaniment’s, and preserves a gentle charismatic side that beats to the drum of the movie’s colorful protagonists. It’s certainly not Zimmer’s most impactful score to date, nor is it anything that completely transforms the Spongebob franchise, but it is a series of familiar spins within this world helmed by arguably the most impactful composer working today, and one that brings forth his most unorthodox and experimental delve throughout his respective filmography.
– Underwhelming humor. I’m not ususally one to be satisfied with Spongebob’s typical brand of humor. To me, the character is loudly obnoxious and dully repetitive to today’s brand of mind-numbing cartoons. But this movie feels like it fails the most consistently in terms of its material that often passed by without even a moment of impact on my registry. There’s a couple of coy deliveries involving Easter eggs of the television show, as well as some clever commentary on a saxophone player who looks and sounds an awful lot like Kenny G, but it’s too few and far between in making parents subdue the nagging headache at the forefront of their experience. Most of the material tries too hard, and the repetition in redundancy is especially prominent for this sequel more than anything else in the property, and it left me with the worst kind of dry kids movie fluff that substitutes ingenuity for loud noises and quirky sound editing that often pulls at the lowest hanging branch of attention.
– Distracted script. Speaking of attention deficit, the script for this movie is especially frustrating at remaining focused, bringing forth one of my least favorite cliches in sequel/prequel storytelling. In the foreground of the movie’s prime conflict, there’s roughly 40 minutes of actual material to span 82 minutes throughout this movie’s presentation. So immediately the lack of depth and room to grow causes concern with how they will fill the time to justify the big screen experience. The rest comes in the form of several flashback sequences, which get annoying roughly a half hour in, and are only there to add clarity to a situation that could easily be attained in a single line of dialogue. Seriously, by the third act of this movie, I was getting legitimately angry how much it was halting the progress of what was happening in the foreground, and it made for the worst kind of experience, where a movie’s pacing becomes your prime antagonist.
– First act issues. For my money, the movie’s conflict and the overall kidnapping of Gary too far too long to materialize, and left the ensuing opening minutes as an obstacle to investing in this narrative. It takes around 20 minutes before you start to see the strings of storytelling start to spin their intentional circumstance, succeeding an introduction that, while it does feel synonymous with the episodic structure of the TV show, drops the ball on welcoming us back into this world in a big theatrical way. It makes for a difficult uphill struggle to gaining any semblance of momentum to carry over before matters start to take shape, and stands out as the obvious weakness in a movie with no shortage of them.
– Subplot overload. Aside from the many problems the screenplay has that I elaborated at above, another one presents itself in the abundance of characters in Bikini Bottom that the film has a difficult time finding justification to include. That doesn’t mean that it damn sure doesn’t try, quite the opposite actually. This movie forces as many subplots outside of the Spongebob and Patrick narrative as it possibly can. Some of them drag on a bit too long, but all of them are inconsequential to the pivotal conflict that the plot and the majority of the screen time invest in, giving this movie a feeling you never expected in a Spongebob movie; convolution.
– Underwhelming road trip. The first rule of any road trip comedy is that those involved suffer an almost insurmountable adversity in getting to their destination, but this isn’t the case in “Sponge on the Run”. Instead, our characters reach their destination with almost an hour left to go in the film, and further throw off the pacing in a way that stretches the second half in ways that were every bit boring as they were frustrating. I use the latter verb because a series of gags and jokes while on the road are just shameful rehashes that were already done, and done better, in the TV show, coming off as a greatest hits of Spongebob material that offers nothing new or substantial to longtime enthusiasts of the series. To add to this, the show’s founder, Stephen Hillenburg recently passed away, and his dying wish before his untimely passing was for this project to never be made. So in a sense, “Sponge on the Run” is the kick in the face to a man’s last dying wish, and one that proves how little it accomplishes without its master at the helm of its project.
– Insufferable tropes. One unique commentary that the movie attempts is the deconstruction of buddy comedy movies defined by a series of checklist cliches that each of them meet in criteria. For satire, this would be an excellent inclusion to the movie. That is, if it wasn’t guilty of it itself in a hypocritical fashion. One such occasion involves the now obvious third act break-up, where two main characters will stretch a fight out of nowhere to add an element of uncertainty to a movie’s climax. It’s done here and solved poorly. In fact, I timed it myself, and Spongebob and Patrick’s spontaneous argument results in a resolution not even two full minutes of screen time later. If your film suffers the same fate as the movies you mock, at least do it long enough to earn some momentary concern in the youthful patrons who won’t be able to recognize it as obvious as mature film veterans. Otherwise, you’re just adding to an already big problem that the movie can recognize, but lacks the intelligence to divert from.
My Grade: 4/10 or D