Just when I never thought it would never see the light of day, out comes The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, just in time for the latest streaming service, Paramount+, to be released. With movie theaters in America being limited due to the ongoing pandemic, streaming has been the savior of many movies for those still not willing to go to a theater and catching the COVID virus; many of Warner Bros. films have been slated to release on HBO Max simultaneously with a theatrical release, while Disney+ has been trying to add premier access with films like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon. The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water has only found a theatrical release in the international market during the past summer, though I am not sure how well it did. I doubt it will even find an audience, with the amount of streaming services competing against each other. Only those who are true Spongebob fans, like myself, will even bother to give Paramount+ a shot just for 91 minutes of Spongebob and his friends.
Of course, this is not Spongebob’s first venture into feature-length territory (He first hit screens in 2004’s The Spongebob Squarepants Movie with 2015’s Sponge Out of Water following it), yet this is his first film to be fully computer-animated (with some live-action elements thrown in for good measure); with more and more studios nearly saying goodbye to the traditional way of animating films, and the fact that Sponge Out of Water became surprisingly successful, grossing $325.2 million on a projected $60-74 million budget. Even after twenty years of being on Nickelodeon, the late Stephen Hillenburg’s absorbent, yellow, porous, and square creation is still popular with audiences, even enough to be the most memed show on the internet (No others need apply). The problem with its staying power is how much the show is being milked to its worth, even after the creators passing.
While it is concerning to see such a popular show get turned into a movie just for the sake of nostalgia (and a profit), when it comes to Spongebob Squarepants, the only thing that matters is whether it can be fun for both kids and adults; we do not expect something that is on the same level of Disney or Pixar. Sponge on the Run is definitely that, despite its strange format and penchant to cash-in on whatever popularity the cartoon has left. It is an obvious cash-grab, but a damn fine entertaining one at that.
At the start, Sponge on the Run puts itself out there like a film an animation studio of the highest caliber would make, with gorgeous animation and voice-over narration akin to a deep-sea documentary filmmaker, only for it to go straight to the crazy, childish antics of Spongebob (Voice of Tom Kenny) as he gets ready to start his day, spending time with pet snail Gary (Also Kenny), sharing a back-and-forth of “good morning” with his best friend/next-door neighbor Patrick Star (Voice of Bill Faggerbakke), and annoying other neighbor, Squidward Tentacles (Voice of Rodger Bumpass), while heading off to The Krusty Krab run by the money-hungry Mr. Eugene Krabs (Voice of Clancy Brown), where he works, busting his tail as a fry cook, flipping burgers called Krabby Patties for all the hungry customers. Those who know the show will be aware of its formula and know what these characters are all about. The only thing I see fans not truly enjoying is the animation, which seems less like Spongebob Squarepants, and more like The Peanuts Movie, just rougher and more defined.
One thing I have noticed in each of the Spongebob movies is that they have a story which sees our yellow friend going on an adventure to recover something stolen. The first film had Spongebob and Patrick travelling to the forbidden Shell City to recover King Neptune’s crown, while Sponge Out of Water had Sponge and friends travel to the surface to recover the secret Krabby Patty formula from a conniving pirate. Sponge on the Run, however, does not have any original adventure to go on. Instead, it takes notes from a Season 4 episode titled Have You Seen This Snail?, which shows Gary turning up missing. Only this time, the snail has not run away, instead he is, for a lack of a better word, snail-napped, and it is up to Spongebob and Patrick to go track down Gary and return him home, where they eventually find themselves in the lost city of Atlantic City; a casino-style version of Atlantis (Where have I seen that before?)
Another thing that each movie includes is at least a celebrity appearance, the first movie with David Hasselhoff, Sponge Out of Water with Antonio Banderas as pirate Burger Bears, and Sponge on the Run with Keanu Reeves as a wise tumbleweed named Sage, who shows up once in a while to give Spongebob and Patrick advice. Each celebrity who has played a part in this trilogy is welcome with humor, and Reeves’ Sage is no exception. Sure, there are a few other celebrities who cameo in this movie (two of them appearing in a saloon), but none of them have the entertainment value or commitment that Reeves puts in. There is, however, a robot voiced by Awkwafina that gets some laughs here and there.
As the third entry in a film series based on a cartoon, Sponge on the Run is as good of a Spongebob movie needs to be. Once you get through the different style of animation, you are in for a bright, color, entertaining ride. Kids will love it, adults may find something to put on for their kids, and fans will get some enjoyment out of it.