What They Say:
SpongeBob SquarePants, his best friend Patrick, and the Bikini Bottom gang star in their most epic adventure movie yet! When SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail Gary goes missing, a path of clues leads SpongeBob and Patrick to the powerful King Poseidon, who has Gary held captive in the Lost City of Atlantic City. On their mission to save Gary, SpongeBob and his pals team up for a heroic and hilarious journey where they discover nothing is stronger than the power of friendship. Stay after the credits for an all-new mini-movie! Now available in 4k HDR and Dolby Vision on selected devices.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As a sat in a drive-in theater watching the latest SpongeBob Squarepants film (a necessity in seeing the film on a theatrical screen due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic), it dawned on me that while I was enjoying the film, the whole thing was feeling very, very familiar…but, honestly, I wasn’t sure why. Was I just getting too old? Was almost 20 years of watching adventures of the sponge who lived in a pineapple under the sea just losing its luster? I tried to sort out my feelings in (what would have been) an early review of the film, but the final analysis was so devoid of any useful thought that I scrapped it, went on a trip to Vegas for some rest and relaxation. While there I got to watch several other movies, rejuvenate myself with other writings, and (most importantly to this review) got to play around with the recently rebranded Paramount+ streaming service and watch some classic “SpongeBob Squarepants” episodes.
It was during the time I was writing another review while the show played in the background when I felt something awfully familiar playing. Looking up I realized that I was watching “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the latest movie in the franchise. Except…it wasn’t the movie! It was a classic episode called “Have You Seen My Snail?!” At that point, I sulked in my chair and laughed a hearty laugh: Nickelodeon actually had the galls to recycle an old episode of their TV show, give it a new coat of paint, and resell it to a general audience! For a series that has built its popularity and reputation on a character who is pure and innocent, this tactic smacked of that of an oil snake salesman. I remember being so disappointed to hear the news that the theatrical release of the film had been scrapped in favor of turning it into a give-away to convince people to subscribe to (at the time) CBS All Access.
With this new information in mind, giving the movie away as part of a buffet makes much more sense (and will likely make parents feel less ripped off). In fact, knowing that “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is basically repackaged goods, it puts the film’s most notable selling point into context: The fact that this is the first fully animated CGI film in the series. Sure, the previous film flirted with CGI in a 20-minute sequence, but that film was still, by and large, a traditionally animated 2D film. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” made a big deal of the fact that SpongeBob would be brought to the third dimension and look like a “movie” for once (though I’ve got strong words for executives who believe hand-drawn 2D animation doesn’t look like a real movie). While the 3D animation does a much better job of preserving the classic look of the SpongeBob world in a new dimension than I could have imagined, this fact does goes to show how second nature the story really was.
This was basically a way for Nickelodeon to make a tech demo that they would (in theory) get parents to pay for. For whatever reason, someone high up decided that they wanted to make a SpongeBob Squarepants product with CGI animation. Rather than just make a straightforward tech demo and go from there, someone decided to dig up an old episode, expand the script a bit, and create a “new” movie that could then be resold as new goods. It’s such an insidious origin for this project it actually makes me dislike the movie more despite how enjoyable it was. And enjoyable parts there are! It revolves around the kidnapping of SpongeBob’s pet snail Gary, who has been snailnapped by the King of the Lost City of Atlantis City (get it?) who needs the goo snails leave behind to use as beauty creamer. This is the perfect opportunity to bring SpongeBob away from Bikini Bottom and into another location (this time around the main attraction is a casino paradise for…well, obvious reasons).
The humor on the journey is classic SpongeBob, right from the banter with stupid best friend Patrick to the obligatory celebrity cameo these movies have become known for (in this case Keanu Reeves has a particularly inspiring appearance as a wise sage whose head is literally a sage itself). During the initial viewing, I won’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy myself. The journey did feel familiar and empty at the end of the day though, and once I realized the stunt Nickelodeon pulled, the less fun I had in retrospect with the whole experience.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” isn’t exactly what I would consider an unpleasant experience, but it is one marred by the fact that audiences were essentially sold repackaged goods. Sure, the original goods were fine, but I bought them once and I don’t need to pay for them again. The fact that the film is now viewable a-la-cart via Paramount+ means parents are spared a huge bill from what amounts to a bit of a con on the filmmakers part, but it also makes the whole affair more pointless when the original material is also viewable there. Essentially, it means the only real purpose of the movie is to show off what SpongeBob looks like in 3D, and that makes for a pretty poor sales pitch in my opinion. To add insult to injury, not content with reselling something fans already got years ago, the film has one more gimmick: Doubling as an ad for the upcoming Paramount+ exclusive spin-off series “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.” Oh SpongeBob, you slick oil snake salesman you…
SIDE NOTE: Although this isn’t really relevant to the movie review itself, it dawned on me during the formatting phase that Viacom using a re-skinned SpongeBob episode to get people to sign up for a re-skinned streaming service to be especially ironic!
Streamed By: Paramount+