The good (not great) SpongeBob sequel.
The question I’ve been having about “SpongeBob SquarePants” lately has an interesting or obvious answer, depending on how you diverse animated TV shows. It isn’t “How can there be a fire underwater?.” SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and his friends have been on the surface in various episodes and movies, and yet at each time, they act like they’re experiencing it for the first time. Do the animators want to make those stories original, or do they get neuralyzed by the Men in Black? Probably a stupid question, considering the fact that long-running animated shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” have characters who never grow old, but I just had to ask.
“Sponge on the Run” is the third film version of the popular Nickelodeon series created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, but this time, instead of its traditional animation, it’s in stylized CGI animation like “The Peanuts Movie” or “Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse.” I admire its texture of the characters, who merge with their cartoon antics in this universe, and it’s often funny the way their scenes are handled. The best moment, in particular, is when SpongeBob’s friend Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) is being pursued by King Neptune’s guards, comes across a table full of food, and stuffs pieces of chicken in his bucket, pants, and mouth, while screaming for his dear life. I thought that was a funny scene.
The story is a hit & miss, with most of the hits coming from SpongeBob and Patrick heading over to Atlantic City (get it?) to rescue his beloved pet snail Gary, who was stolen by his enemy Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) as a way for him to steal the Krabby Patty (burger) formula. The reason for the theft is because King Neptune (voiced by Matt Berry) covets a snail to use its slime for his facial cream, and Gary is the snail he needs.
The biggest downside comes during a courtroom scene, when SpongeBob’s friends reveal to everyone how they met at Camp Coral. This is going to be a spin-off show, and while these flashbacks have some sweet moments, I felt they were handled so slow and meandering. I know how SpongeBob really met the scientist squirrel Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), and I don’t like Squidward’s (voiced by Roger Bumpass) back story very much. This takes about 20 minutes, and it feels like an excuse for the movie to be longer. I mean, when I saw “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a lot went down in the courtroom, and that was no excuse. It was real and provocative.
Outside that subplot, there are other adventures inspired by “Rango,” “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles,” “Rain Man,” “The Hangover,” and even “The Exorcist” when it spoofs the iconically creepy spider walk scene. SpongeBob and Patrick are driven by Sandy’s money-obsessed robot (voiced by Awkwafina) in a live-action Old West town, where Keanu Reeves’ head appears in a tumbleweed, Snoop Dogg is on the piano, and Danny Trejo is a zombie pirate. And then, they get to Atlantic City, where they become high rollers with morning hangovers. Kenny continues to deliver the zaniness of SpongeBob and Fagerbakke is given an early 2000s tone of voice as Patrick. I was a fan of the show as a kid, so I can sense when the voice actors stay committed to the characters they helped bring to life.
“Sponge on the Run” is yet another movie to skip the theaters and go straight to streaming sites (even though it played theatrically in Canada), and while it’s not the best of the three films (the second one was my favorite), it still offers some nice moments and flexibility.
Streaming On Demand This Thursday