Released: 5th November
Seen: 17th November
On the first of May 1999, the first episode of SpongeBob SquarePants was aired and it was an almost instant phenomenon and became one of the longest running animated series in history. It spawned multiple video games, a Broadway play and several movies. The first two films were fairly big hits and it’s fair to say that this one would’ve been too but, you know the drill, the world decided to end and all the potentially good movies either got pulled out of cinemas until 2021 or they got thrown onto VOD. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is one of the latter kind of films and honestly, I feel like VOD is the right place to put this film.
Sponge on the Run happens on a normal day in Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) is working at the Krusty Krabs making the famous Krabby Patties for all of Mr Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) customers. Meanwhile, Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) is trying his hardest to steal the Krabby Patty formula but realises he keeps running into SpongeBob and that foils all his plans so, in order to get rid of SpongeBob, Plankton somehow gets King Poseidon (Matt Berry) to take SpongeBob’s pet snail, Gary, and then gets SpongeBob to go on a quest with his best friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) to rescue Gary so Plankton can………. Ah, who cares, ROADTRIP.
While the previous films in the SpongeBob franchise shared the animation style of the cartoon series, this movie has fully embraced a 3D version of that animated style. It’s reminiscent of how the Peanuts movie lifted the animation style from the old cartoons but rendered it in 3D animation. It’s a beautiful thing to behold and manages to really breathe a lot of life into the film, making the more over the top poses that the cartoon was known for stand out. Every character really looks spectacular in this new style of animation, it’s enticing to newcomers but is close enough to the original that fans should be able to enjoy it as well.
Once you get past the pretty impressive transition from 2D to 3D animation though, you end up with a movie that’s more likely to elicit a chuckle instead of a guffaw. The story itself isn’t exactly the most memorable thing, it’s a basic road trip with one interesting stop on the way (to a western land with Snoop Dogg and Vampire Cowboy Danny Trejo delivering two of the three big live-action performances) and a fairly anticlimactic solution that almost felt a bit rushed. Some of the scenes were interesting, I can’t deny enjoying Keanu Reeves as an advice-giving tumbleweed but other than that it didn’t feel like the movie was firing on all cylinders, there’s something here that’s just missing.
Part of it feels like this is just a very fancy episode that they lengthened and did in a new animation style, they didn’t really push the jokes that far or even come up with a very good story. I mean, “SpongeBob and Patrick go on a road trip to save a friend from an underwater king” describes both this movie and the original SpongeBob movie from two decades ago. It’s a new coat of paint, but it definitely felt like they were just retreading old material and maybe that’s enough for fans but when you’re on the third movie for a long-running series, I guess I kind of expected them to try a little harder.
What’s here is still enjoyable, it’s visually very pretty and a lot of the jokes still land but it’s not going to be a massive game-changer. It’s a fine movie, good for the whole family to enjoy without ever really pushing too hard in any direction. It’s fine, just simply fine.