“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run” is the third animated feature for Nickelodeon’s long-running franchise of 20 years. Originally set for release in February of 2019, this film experienced multiple delays right up until it was pushed to the streaming service, Netflix.
So, now that “Sponge On The Run” is finally here, are you all ready to hear what we thought of it? We can’t hear you! Oooooooooooo….
It’s barnacles and business as usual for the undersea dwellers of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob and his star bud, Patrick, are their usual high-spirited and boisterous selves, much to the chagrin of their peace-deprived neighbour, Squidward. Mr Krab’s devoted worship to his finances has been prosperous thus far as his fast-food joint rakes in the profits. Plankton is still plotting and scheming his way to the Krabby Patty’s secret formula. Sandy’s busy affirming everybody of her status as a Texan and Gary… well… (“mao”).
However, tragedy strikes when the yellow sponge’s adorable pet pal gets snail-napped! Who could have been so devious to commit such a heinous act?!
It turns out (yeah, no surprise here) Plankton was behind the crime as his pursuit for the secret formula led him to realise that his crosshairs had been on the wrong crusty target this whole time. As Karen the computer wife points out, the thorn in his side had been SpongeBob all along.
Fortunately for the cyclopic microorganism, an opportunity presents itself as Atlantic city’s King Poseidon issues a royal decree imploring the citizens of the deep to surrender sea snails to him. Why? The god of the sea relishes his beauty and uses snail juice to keep his skin wrinkle-free (pretty revolting if you ask us).
Thus, Plankton dons the Green Goblin costume and cackles maniacally in Willem Dafoe’s voice as he declares his first step: “FIRST, WE ATTACK HIS HEART!”.
Okay. We’re just goofing about that last bit. But yeah, lil’ Dr. evil sends the pink snail away to Atlantic City, which tears the owner apart as soon as he finds out about Gary’s disappearance. Desperate, SpongeBob and his trusty amigo, Patrick, take a road trip in search of their missing mollusc friend. Can they succeed in their quest to save Gary?
Having been exposed to the late Stephen Hillenburg’s creations for over two decades and the whimsical quirks of these marine characters, a wacky escapade from Nickelodeon’s latest was a given. And it does achieve that. The movie stays true to the zany craze and antics of the Krabby gang. From the delicate handling of a Krabby Patty to the rare philosophical musing from Patrick Star, the franchise’s long-running trademarks are on full display here.
And oh, does it feature a couple of celebrity cameos.
This movie celebrates the Keanussance we are in as Mr. John Wick himself gets featured as a wise sage. No, not just a sage. To paraphrase his character in the film, he’s called Sage, made out of sage, and is a sage, so it works out pretty well. With radiant aura, the wise figure randomly rolls into the frame on multiple instances to provide profound advice to the duo on their journey to Atlantic City.
Snoop Dogg and Danny Trejo also show up midway during a scene in a zombie-filled diner, providing the most absurd live-action oddities SpongeBob and Patrick have to handle. Rounding up the voice cast are Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as Otto, a robot built by Sandy intent on taking charge of all life, and Matt Berry (“What We Do In The Shadows”) as King Poseidon, the aforementioned king of Atlantic City.
“Sponge On The Run” treads both new and old ground by utilising CG animation in place of its 2D staple. The only difference is that it does this for the entire film unlike “Sponge Out of Water” which only dedicated the third act to such a style. Seeing Bikini Bottom and the characters in 3D can be a little jarring at times especially when it comes to certain textures like Sandy’s frizzled fur. Nevertheless, it does make everything else such as the cloud blossoms and the neon lights of Atlantic City more vibrant.
As much as this movie seems to provide everything longtime fans are familiar with, it doesn’t quite excel when it comes to creating a truly memorable experience. So, what made it drown in the Goo Lagoon?
First up, we found that it kind of riffs on the 2004 film, bringing back similar plot elements and replicating the formula of the feature. In the stead of King Neptune’s crown, Gary is the missing piece of the puzzle. The Greek deity of the seas is used here in place of Jeffrey Tambor’s squeaky-scalped King Neptune, of which both royal figures have physical insecurities. Reeve’s Sage comes across as an amalgamation of Mindy and David Hasselhoff.
You see, much has been borrowed and while the concept still works, the narrative didn’t gel quite as well as we hoped it would be. The SpongeBob franchise hinges on its slapstick oddities and random ideas, but it’s one that’s usually organised as displayed in the 2004 film. The hero’s journey from beginning to end was clearly shown, from SpongeBob’s initial downer moments at Goofy Goober’s to his Steve Vai wizardry at the climax.
Nevertheless, the pacing here was a mess, flitting back and forth within its various subplots and treating almost all of its character moments as a joke – which traditionally would be fitting but doesn’t feel that way because of how the third act unfolds.
By the climax, there are a series of flashbacks which attempt to tell of how the gang got together. However, for those of us in the know, it basically was an advertisement for Nickelodeon’s upcoming spin-off series, “Kamp Koral”, which feature SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Sandy as their adorable younger selves. The moments were undoubtedly cute, but the heartfelt message did feel downplayed due to the lack of prior attention given to SpongeBob’s journey. The overarching message of the film might have gotten lost due to questionable narrative decisions but again, could very well be a quick lesson for the young ones if they are paying attention.
As far as comedy goes, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of SpongeBob back in his heyday but is generally alright. Many jests don’t land quite as well as they intended to be, but there are moments that do make you scratch your head in complete bewilderment due to how delightfully ridiculous they can be.
“Sponge On The Run” is definitely the weakest of the three SpongeBob features in several ways. It gets chaotic and gaudy with its pacing and character development. It doesn’t take too many chances and plays it safe whilst tangling its entire narrative. If you’re expecting some iconic comedic moments to be quoted in the future, this movie doesn’t provide that. There’s no “Goofy Goober Rock” or food fight. None of that.
Ehhh… we’re gonna cut it some slack and say that it’s a serviceable flick for the family (and also because it’s SpongeBob: agent of chaos). The movie absolutely relishes in the updated animated format and of course, gets giddy with its fun cameos. What can we say, Keanu Reeves as a sage? We see that as an absolute win.
Aight, we guess we’ll just be going from here and to thank you for reading up till the end, we’ll bless you guys with this glorious image of our sage and savant, Keanu Reeves.
Have you watched “Sponge On The Run”? Did you think that it was a sweet sweet victory? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run” is currently streaming on Netflix.