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Well, it’s finally out. If you have been following me and my cohost on Renegade Animation (on Renegade Pop Culture), we have made it a running joke to take a jab at anything SpongeBob-related due to the constant delays and radio silence around the US release of this film. We come off rather harsh, but only because Paramount acted like this was supposed to be this major release that just had to be in theaters. I mean, it got to be in theaters in other countries and got a Blu-ray release, but the US, for one reason or another, well, I know the reason, but still, had to wait until 2021 to finally see this movie. Really? Can you ever imagine that a company like Paramount would hold out for something like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run? Well, they did! It’s finally out.
Directed by Tim Hill, this CGI animated feature based on the long-running franchise went through quite a rocky development. It was originally announced back in 2015 after the release of Sponge Out of Water. You can read up about it as it went through titles like It’s a Wonderful Sponge, it had cat aliens at one point in the plot, and then it was supposed to mostly be an overall origin story for everyone’s favorite undersea characters. Granted, some of these elements would turn into the now notorious Kamp Koral spin-off series, but we are here to talk about the film. So, it was supposed to come out in 2019, but got pushed to 2020, and then it was pushed from the June 2020 release due to the pandemic, and then taken off the release schedule altogether. It got an overseas release and a theatrical release in Canada, but finally got released in the states on March 4th, 2021 to mostly above-average reviews. It just happens to be released alongside the Paramount+ Original, Kamp Koral. So, what do I think about this movie? Well, you will have to read on to find out!
We follow everyone’s favorite underwater fry cook SpongeBob, voiced by Tom Kenny. It’s mostly a typical day for our favorite yellow sponge as he hangs out with his friends, goes to work, and gives his pet snail all of the love in the world. So, what’s the real plot? Well, on the other side of the ocean at the Lost City of Atlantic City, King Trident, voiced this time by Matt Berry, wants to keep up his looks, and part of that process is using the slime that is produced by snails. Unfortunately for him, the snail that he was using is all dried up. Furious at this news, he sends out a royal announcement and bounty for a snail to be delivered to him. PLankton, voiced by Mr. Lawrence, decides to take advantage of this coincidence and kidnap SpongeBob’s snail, Gary. After coming back from work, SpongeBob realizes that Gary has been snailnapped and sets off on an adventure with his best friend Patrick Star, voiced by Peter Fagerbakke, on an adventure with a robot-driven boat voiced by Awkwafina to get Gary back!
I know on the podcast that I have been very critical about the release of this film, but I don’t hate this film. I have a few praises for it. First up to bat is the animation. If this film can lay claim to something, it is that it has some top-quality animation. I love the fact that the CGI looks like stop-motion. We are in an era where CGI animation is evolving with projects that are expanding on the ways we can use it with more cartoony physics and expressions without it looking weird. It’s some of the most expressive animation of 2021. They somehow made this all work by converting the 2D elements to CGI, and no matter how I feel about the rest of the film, it’s incredibly impressive. I would love to watch a behind-the-scenes look at how they made this animation work. It’s a film with an incredible and distinct visual identity, and I will always respect that. Outside of the animation, there were quite a few jokes where I found myself laughing. Even if all of the jokes didn’t land for me, the animation backed it up to still give me a chuckle. It’s still very zany, but it had the right vibe for my comedy preferences. The story itself is flawed, as we will get to that soon, but while it is partly connected to the spin-off, it does have a rather nice ending, and the overall idea of realizing how important someone is in your life is a solid idea for a theme.
The overall story feels very non-existent. It’s incredibly bare-bones, and it feels like either there was supposed to be more but it was cut, or maybe there was a different story, but it got cut and they had to keep the story simple, I’m not sure. The dialogue also comes off like they had a few meta-joke/commentary setups, but then while lampooning the tropes or the topic at hand, they fall back into said tropes. It feels like they wanted to avoid certain story tropes, but then indulged in the ones they were making fun of. Some elements are a touch messed up. For example, early on in the film, Sandy builds a robot prototype for Mr. Krabs to essentially put SpongeBob out of a job. Sure, it can sort of play off of the themes of the film, but I find it shocking Sandy did not have a second thought about putting her best friend out of a job! That’s horrifying. Luckily, that plot point doesn’t go anywhere, but the fact that there are a lot of plot elements that are introduced, quickly solved, or dropped throughout the film feels like there were some problems with producing the story. I also find it amusing that whole the franchise has never cared about continuity, the Kamp Koral stuff seen in the film doesn’t add up to the spin-off. I don’t care, but I find it an amusing observation. I wouldn’t mind a weak story, but the film’s comedy is very miss than hit. That’s a problem when your film is partly a comedy.
After all of this build-up and after all of this frustration with having to wait a literal year for an already finished film when the film would have made its money back if it went through a virtual theater/theatrical/on-demand release because it’s SpongeBob, I just can’t find myself being mad about it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a weak film, and I think the animation is the only thing that carries the experience, but after all that I went through with 2020 and this film having a flawed release, it’s not the worst film out there. I think if you are curious, it’s now on Paramount+ and the spin-off is there as well. Otherwise, maybe wait to find a Blu-ray of the film. I know it’s always a little deflating to build up all of this anger for a film that is in the end just okay, but it’s good to remember that there are worse things in the world than a middling SpongeBob movie. I’ll be back with a film that I consider the worst of 2021 so far, and you will have to wait to find out what it is!
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Rating: Rent it!