Review: 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run' (2020) Dir. Tim Hill
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
The third feature film for the loveable aquatic cartoon characters this time uses full CGI and live-action to explore a friendship between sponge and snail...
Aquatic sea-sponge Spongebob Squarepants (Kenny) is thrust into an adventure that takes him across the ocean to the mystical and dangerous Lost City of Atlantic City.
His faithful pet snail Gary has been snail-napped by the evil Plankton (Lawrence) and handed over the the powerful King Poseidon (Berry) to use Gary's snail trail to help keep his youthful looks and prevent aging.
With his best friend Patrick Star (Fagerbakke) and help from others such as Mr Krabs (Brown), Squidward (Bumpass) and a tumbleweed called Sage (Reeves), Spongebob will faces his fears and discover what true friendships are all about...
Straying greatly from the core of what made the original cartoons of 'Spongebob Squarepants' so appealing and simple, the third feature film now substitutes the charming 2D animation in favour or CGI. While this isn't too distracting and enforces great visuals and vibrant colours, something feels different in style and content this time around. It's the least funny of the current three feature films and it feels it's trying TOO hard to be funny, which never works.
Littered with celebrity cameos including Snoop Dogg, Danny Trejo and Keanu Reeves (who is fully believable as a talking tumbleweed), this return to Bikini Bottom doesn't feel like true Spongebob. And, to be honest, Spongebob isn't even on the run from anything in this movie so who knows what the title refers too.
All the voice actors return from the series, but sadly Tom Kenny doesn't evoke the same energy and manic glee as Spongebob used to have, and at times this makes the sponge seem a shadow of his former childlike self.
Thankfully everyone else slips right back into character such as the Clancy Brown as money-obsessed Mr Krabs and Bill Fagerbakke as dim-witted Patrick Star, all just supporting roles.
The characters truly work when they get to play with the emotive side of the story, with heavy exploration on what it means to have friends when faced with nothing; this moralistic narrative is few and far between, but when it appears more so towards the final act and we see how some friendships came to be, it's sweet and touches upon what we love about Spongebob and crew.
We go from zany set piece to zany set piece as a loose story about seeking pet snail Gary from the clutches of King Poseidon from the Lost City of Atlantic City is threaded between them. CGI allows the film to be bigger, brighter and grander in every way, from character design, location building and animated action that, while expansive and full of slick detail, just doesn't feel like Spongebob without the classic 2D cartoon simplicity. Especially with the blend of live-action as a major addition to the character interactions (see the often random cameos above). The cameos are not as innovative and comedic as the original star turn by David Hasselhoff, and just feel pointless.
Humour wise, it's full of the usual zany and slapstick and often surreal antics of Spongebob and Patrick that will appeal to the younger audiences more than the older, regardless of that nostalgic memory of when Spongebob fever really hit back in the early 2000s. That doesn't carry over to a CGI world, and a heavy taint of industry capitalism, that is now lacking those simple stories, multi-generational, often campy comedy and quirky animation.
There will be nothing to amuse older viewers here with much of the comedy aimed straight for the immature and less observant of young viewers. It feels Spongebob himself has changed over the years with the humour also on the backpedal from what it originally was, and there's nothing here that evokes what he was all about in the years gone by.
The heavily delayed and then cancelled theatrical outing (thanks to COVID-19) feels more at home for the digital streaming platform as the ideas seem to be running thin for Spongebob and co this third time around, failing to offer anything new or amusing.
'The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run' is a co-production between Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon Movies, United Plankton Pictures, Media Rights Capital and Mikros Image