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SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/02/04 02:46:16

"Should've been better, glad it wasn't worse."
3 stars (Just Average)

In various non-English speaking parts of the world, SpongeBob SquarePants is known instead as “Bob the Sponge.” And let’s face it, that’s just not as funny. There’s something inherently giggle-inducing about the connection of those four syllables, just as there’s something inherently giggle-inducing about the sentence “you don’t need a licence to drive a sandwich.” Which is the point where I realized “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” wasn’t going for anything but the funny, with great success.

Oh, the movie is a bit of a letdown, let’s be honest. After several seasons of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, which combined breathlessly inventive animation with cheap, slaphappy gags, one expected the movie spinoff to be the crowning moment for the franchise, kinda like the “South Park” movie was. That writer/director/creator Stephen Hillenberg doesn’t try to do much more with SpongeBob now that he’s on the big screen leaves the film lacking a certain kick; the final result comes off more like a product of corporate necessity than the bold new creative force I wanted it to be. The script is too slapdash, the animation only mildly eye-popping, the jokes too uneven.

But then, maybe expectations were just too high. And so I won’t complain much about the emptiness of the story, in which SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and starfish dolt pal Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) take off on a quest to Shell City, something about recovering King Neptune’s crown and clearing the name of Mr. Krabs, who was framed for the crime by the evil Plankton as part of his latest world domination scheme. (Either you know these names or you’re shamefully unaware. Check out the series, then get back with me.) Aside from a subplot involving SpongeBob’s hopes of becoming manager of the new Krusty Krab 2 (located, naturally, right next door to the Krusty Krab 1), there’s not much else to the script, really; Hillenberg and his five fellow co-writers try to toss in some meaningful stuff about being happy with who you are, but that fizzles. (It never works as either an actual moral or a parody of one.)

Where “SpongeBob” wins is in its humor. The series has always been one of “we’ll try anything as long as it’s funny.” And that spirit remains here. Pirates are funny - put some in! Mustaches are funny - make ’em green! David Hasselhoff is funny - give him a cameo! This movie’s motto is The Weirder, The Better, which leaves us with such memorable one-liners as “Step aside, and you won’t have to feel the awesome wrath of our mustaches!” The stranger the turn, the sharper the comic impact, and Hillenberg knows it, offering up a dizzy blend of filmmaking styles and storytelling non sequiturs, all in the name of the chuckle. Never mind that such a comic style works best in short form; the translation to feature length is choppy but perfectly usable.

“SpongeBob” will appeal to exactly its target audience - namely, kids who like silly humor (read: all kids) and teens and adults who revel in the weird (read: stoners and geeks). The film takes no effort to win over anyone outside of these groups. But that’s OK. This is a movie for the fans, a dopey little treat for those who made the show a hit. It’s clever in spots, crisp in spots, wonderful in spots... but overall nothing spectacular. Still, it makes us kids/stoners/geeks laugh, and that is so worth it indeed. For if we know only one thing in life, we know that mustaches are very, very funny.

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