Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 31 minutes, Director – Tim Hill
Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) venture to Atlantic City to retrieve pet snail Gary (Kenny) from King Poseidon (Matt Berry)
2004’s The Spongebob Squarepants Movie has perhaps become something of a slight cult classic over the years since its release. Not just amongst younger viewers and those who saw it when it was first released but with adults too, to this day around 25% of Spongebob’s TV audience are adults with no kids. 11 years later the world was introduced to Sponge Out Of Water which, for about 20 minutes, brought Spongebob, in 3D animated form, to the real world. But, the majority of both films are made up of the traditional 2D animated form that the TV show that started it all still takes the form of. However, now, in Sponge On The Run, things look; and feel, different. Spongebob and all his ocean dwelling friends now take the form of 3D computer animation, which while there’s no problem with this the style does at times seem somewhat odd. Nothing new seems to be done with the style, instead it feels like what would be done with 2D animation in a 3D world – at times almost feeling like a form of stop-motion animation just without the fingerprints.
And yet fingerprints do seem to lie throughout the film’s screenplay, written by director Tim Hill. For a number of TV comedies it’s apparently common to have writers rooms where groups of writers get together to throw jokes around and come up with the best ones; it works well for 22-30 minutes episodes where you need to still try to get as many jokes in as possible. Although apparently never so much with films. Hill’s screenplay seems to try to throw in as many gags and asides as possible into the film’s already quite jumpy and all-over-the-place nature. Never quite giving the audience time to breathe as it flicks to something new in the hope of raising even a mild smirk. It feels as if a number of these attempted jokes have been either taken from the more recent series of the show, where apparently the quality has begun to decline, or have just been rejected.
The film itself almost feels like three loose episodes strung together to create a plot. We find Spongebob (Tom Kenny) enjoying his life working as a fry cook at The Krusty Krab restaurant, but when his pet snail Gary (also Kenny) goes missing he heads off to The Lost City Of Atlantic City – the underwater answer to Vegas – with his best friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) to retrieve him from King Poseidon (Matt Berry). The reason for Gary being missing being that Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) notices that if he gets rid of Gary he gets rid of Spongebob and can take the Krabby Patty secret formula for his own unsuccessful rival the Chum Bucket. Thus King Poseidon – who uses snail slime to retain his young looks and avoid facial blemishes such as wrinkles, having run out of snails and issuing a royal decree for people to give their own up – is in possession of the sea snail that sounds like a cat. It all sounds rather busy and convoluted, and it is; and yet none of it ever really becomes engaging or that amusing at any point. Even with all of this going on the film still somehow finds time for Snoop Dogg to rap about being a pirate-zombie-cowboy before Danny Trejo turns up – something which sums up the whole film rather well.
Other celebrity roles and cameos include Tiffany Haddish, Awkwafina, Reggie Watts and Keanu Reeves as a wise tumbleweed – almost seemingly playing himself, which there is nothing wrong with – let’s not forget the majesty of David Hasselhoff in the first Spongebob movie. But the film seems so pre-occupied with celebrities, and random intervals that the plot, despite having multiple elements, occasionally feels thin. Maybe as a feature length TV special this would work better but certainly not as a proper film. It all seems to fall rather flat as the jokes never properly land and instead of focusing on the events of the film you almost focus on the sometimes rather odd soundtrack choices, Livin’ La Vida Loca plays as if it’s a catchy modern song that fits perfectly with the film.
Eventually the film, with about 20 minutes to go enters into a musical number and various flashbacks to how the various characters met Spongebob – the initial pitch for the film when it was first announced in 2015 under the title It’s A Wonderful Sponge – it feels as if, once again, this is a separate idea for TV (it’s already been announced that Kamp Koral adventures are to be a spin-off show). Everything simply feels extremely random and somewhat disorganised. In need of tightening up to create something that provides more than just one or two small exhales of mild amusement over the course of its 91 minute run-time. Through it’s various tangents, flashbacks, songs and general randomness this very much feels like something better suited for younger TV audiences than anyone else.
Unfortunately this nautical nonsense is not something you wish.