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The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

Bigger. Better. More absorbent.

Directed by:

Stephen Hillenburg

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 90 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

Country: United States

The crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor) has been stolen, and burger bar owner Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown) is in the frame, so to save his boss from imminent execution, eager employee Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) agrees to retrieve the crown from the Forbidden Shell City – even if Krabs had just passed him over for promotion on the grounds that he is “just a kid”. Spongebob sets off with his even more dim-witted sidekick Patrick Starfish (Bill Fagerbakke) in Krabs’ promotional ‘Pattywagon’ (“you don’t need a licence to drive a sandwich”), not realising that Krabs’ rival, the evil (and “criminally tiny”) Plankton (Doug Lawrence), is behind the whole scheme in a ruthless bid to take over not only Krabs’ successful business, but the whole of Bikini Bottom. Spongebob and Patrick must survive a bar full of bubble-and-baby-hating thugs, some terrifying monsters, and Plankton’s hitman Dennis (Alec Baldwin) – but thanks to the help of Princess Mindy (Scarlett Johansson), some fake moustaches, a strange creature known as ‘the Hasselhoff’, and some righteous chops on the guitar, no-one is putting the squeeze on Spongebob.

In the world of children’s feature animation, 2004 was the year that proved there are plenty of fish in the ocean. First came Pixar’s underwater odyssey Finding Nemo, depicting sealife with stunning CG photorealism. Then there was Dreamworks’ Shark Tale, whose computer-modelled coral reef was a subaquatic double for New York City. And now we have Nickelodeon’s ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie’, which with its straightforward handdrawn artwork and grotesque goofball characters is just like an extended episode of the popular kids’ TV show on which it is based.

The only obvious adjustments which director Stephen Hillenburg has made in shifting ‘Spongebob’ to the big screen are a live-action narrative frame (involving pirates attending a screening of the film), the presence of a few big-name actors (Alec Baldwin, Scarlett Johansson) to voice new characters, and a sporting live-action cameo by David Hasselhoff as a powered-up, pectorally-enhanced version of his ‘Baywatch’ self. In all other respects you may as well be watching this in bed on a Saturday morning. Yet if the big blue has never looked quite so small screen, at least this is in keeping with a film whose main theme is that it does not matter if you are just a little kid – and in any case ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie’ is funnier, if more puerile, than either of its sea-set cinematic siblings.

Full of brash inanity, jokes about farts and underpants, as well as surreal musical numbers whose lyrics are infectiously repetitive enough to encourage boisterous singing along, ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie’ has just about everything the younger viewer could want. It might even raise the odd laugh from older cinemagoers – although unless you are on some sort of extended icecream high, or still in direct contact with your inner child, after 87 minutes of this you may well feel you have other fish to fry.

It's Got: Lines like "Step aside and you wont have to feel the awesome wrath of our nmoustaches" and "I rode the Hasselhoff"; icecream-addicts on a bender; underpants decorated with Goofy Goober the dancing peanut; Spongebob-worshipping pirates.

It Needs: To be shorter and a bit less repetitive.

Alternatives:

Finding Nemo, Shark Tale

Summary

Just like a real sponge, it is light, vacuous and strange, and keeps things clean for the kids –but adults might wish it were more absorbing.

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