out of Five
Running time: 87
Enjoyable, frequently funny, brightly-coloured animation with plenty of gags aimed at both kids and adults.
The press notes for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie describe the cartoon as “the most watched kids’ show in television history”. How they arrived at that particular superlative is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that the show has achieved a sizeable cult following since its debut in 1999, an audience that includes both kids and adults (okay, mostly students, but you get the idea). Trailed by an amusing poster campaign (“Hero. Legend. Movie Star. Sponge.”) this is SpongeBob’s first big screen adventure, which is getting a cunningly-timed release for the half-term holidays.
Self-Aware Sponge Retrieves Neptune’s Crown
Thankfully the film has resisted the temptation to recast the characters with famous actors doing the voices, although it does feature both Scarlett Johansson and Alec Baldwin, not to mention an inspired live-action cameo by David Hasselhoff.
The story involves SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and his best friend
Patrick (a starfish, voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) leaving Bikini Bottom and attempting to retrieve King Neptune’s (Jeffrey Tambor) crown, after a fiendish plot by Plankton (Doug Lawrence) frames SpongeBob’s boss, Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown) for the theft.
On their quest, the two friends encounter various monsters and are pursued by the sinister Dennis the Hit Man (Alec Baldwin), as well as being turned into “men” by Neptune’s daughter, Mindy the Mermaid (Scarlett Johansson).
Given the prevalence of CGI cartoons these days, it’s rather nice to see a “traditionally” animated film and the movie makes strong use of its brightly-coloured characters. The gags come thick and fast too, with jokes aimed at both kids and adults (e.g. Patrick’s enquiries about whether Mindy wanted to see his underwear). There’s also a particularly amusing comic reaction to baldness (“BALD! BAAAAAALD! AAAAAAH!”) that could conceivably catch on in playgrounds (and offices) everywhere.
The voice cast are superb, with Jeffrey Tambor probably the stand-out of the drafted-in names (and the victim of the baldness gag). The film even manages to pull off a hilarious comic song (“Now that we’re men!”), as well as providing new additions to playground vocabulary such as “Knuckleheaded McSpazatron”.
The film isn’t exactly without flaws, however. The live-action sequences don’t work as well as they should and Hasselhoff’s cameo goes on for too long, though it’s worth it for the line, “We rode the Hasselhoff!”.
Similarly, the climax of the film is disappointing and seems rushed. Finally, if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, you may find the footage of enormous waves that plays over the end credits to be a little uncomfortable in these post-Tsunami times.
That said, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a treat for fans of the animated series and it will almost certainly recruit a few new members to its ever-increasing cult. It’s more fun than The Magic Roundabout, anyway. Worth seeing.