‘The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (2004)’- Throwback Review

Those who live in Canada are very lucky at the moment since they have the chance to see The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in theaters, unlike everyone else in the world who has to wait until next year to see if it’s worth our time. Seriously, Paramount’s motive makes little sense. At least there’s a chance to revisit quite possibly everyone’s childhood favorite movie growing up with 2004’s The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie because every kid must’ve seen this in theaters and see this beloved cartoon character on the big screen. 

What’s the Story: The always lovable SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) should’ve been the happiest person in all of Bikini Bottom, but that doesn’t go as planned after he gets passed over for a promotion of his dreams at the new Krusty Krab 2. It seems like everyone will think of him as a kid, until he gets to prove himself to everyone after Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) has stolen King Neptune (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor)’s crown and has framed Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) so he can steal the secret Krabby Patty formula for himself. Now, it’s up to SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) to embark on an adventitious quest outside Bikini Bottom to retrieve King Neptune’s crown from Shell City in six days to save Mr. Krabs from being executed and Plankton from taking over the entire town.

Bill Fagerbakke and Tom Kenny in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

Growing up, I was a huge SpongeBob fan. And who wasn’t? It was one of my favorite cartoons at the time when talking about the first three seasons that were gloriously re-watchable. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I didn’t have to be stoned either. A loyal fan would have books, VHS tapes, and tons of collectible items to show how serious it was to me. Still, to this day, I always laugh at the classic episodes before the series lost its charm in the later years. Since it was the most popular show on the kids’ network, it wasn’t the most shocking news in the world to know it was going to be made into a movie. The late creator Stephen Hillenburg even turned the offer to make it happen for a long time from Paramount Pictures repeatedly and how it was meant to be the finale for the show. Finding out this was getting the movie treatment was the most exciting news in the world as a kid. This wasn’t the first time Nickelodeon has made a movie based on one of their television shows since we’ve previously gotten three Rugrats movies (The Rugrats MovieRugrats in ParisRugrats Go Wild), Hey Arnold!: The Movie, and The Wild Thornberrys Movie

Because of the popularity of the series, this had got to be one of the most anticipated animated movies of the year right away. My family and I saw it on opening night, and I was pumped out of my mind to where I wanted to bring in my backpack full of SpongeBob related books, but couldn’t bring them in. Even after a decade has passed since this came out, I still have a ton of fun watching this, making me feel like the world turning into a massive depression. 

Whenever an animated series is turned into a movie during or after its run on air, there’s a worrying factor to be implemented, wondering if it will be just an expanded episode worthlessly spanned into a 90-minute feature that could’ve premiered on Nickelodeon. This is the kind of story that needs to belong in a movie where this is an adventure SpongeBob and Patrick will not be your normal road trip, as they have to go through numerous obstacles in their way. Hillenburg and the five credited writers went beyond with taking on a plot much different from a usual episode we’ve seen before. It can become predictable and silly for its good, but that has got to be the point where you don’t need to take everything seriously. Especially for a cartoon about a talking sponge. Duh. Do you have to watch the series to understand what’s going on? I don’t think so, since it shows off who and where everything is without asking many questions. Still, it makes for an entertaining ride for our characters to step out of their comfort zone to make things right again.

Dee Bradley Baker, Bill Fagerbakke, Tom Kenny, and Mr. Lawrence in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

You watch this movie to watch the titular yellow character on the big screen, and you won’t be disappointed with what they gave to us. SpongeBob is still the lovable character we’ve grown to love over the years and was able to carry an entire movie on his back. Like always, Tom Kenny does a great job with the voice work, though it sounds like the pitch of the character was dialed up a bit more than what we hear from the show. And a movie like this couldn’t forget about the funny, yet dim-witted Patrick before they made him unlikable. And Plankton has always been a hilarious villain to root against since we’ve always seen him fail on multiple occasions, but he becomes more of a threatening figure as his plan is coming through when he finally gets customers to eat at the Chum Bucket. Some other well-known residents of Bikini Bottom don’t have limited screen time with only a couple of lines each, which was a letdown, to say the least.

In terms of the animation, this has to work on a slightly bigger budget ($30 million) than what it brought to the show, and it was so beautifully colorful to look at. The hand-drawn animation was about on par with how the show looked that didn’t have to compare to what Disney and DreamWorks have been working up ever since, but what I liked in here is how the characters were given more brighten expressions along with the different locations we haven’t seen before, bringing the environment to life. When they went into the live-action part during the third act, the 2D animation still holds up well with its realistic setting.

This also had big names to voice brand new characters who I didn’t know about when I was eight, including Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune (who looks completely different from the season 1 episode “Neptune’s Spatula”), Scarlett Johansson as Neptune’s kind-hearted daughter Princess Mindy, and Alec Baldwin as the hitman Dennis, who Plankton hires to kill our main heroes. There’s also a funny live-action appearance from former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff doing his iconic run on the beach. Did I understand the reference back then? Of course not, since this was my introduction to him.

Even after it came out in 2004, it still managed to still be funny. I was laughing a fair amount at the moments I remember laughing for the first time, almost the same way when I usually laugh at the memorable gag of the classic episodes. Most of the jokes were kids-related humor, but adults might get a kick out of them, too. I didn’t get it back then, but I never realized the pair was getting “drunk” on ice cream. The bald joke revealing Neptune’s has a shiny head cracks me up every time. “MY EYES!!” Probably the scene that’s still funny today was when a blown bubble in the Thug Tug, SpongeBob and Patrick were trying their absolute hardest to not sing the “Goofy Goober” song, and it was they it was killing them. Hardest try not to challenge ever?

Bill Fagerbakke and Tom Kenny in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

I also have to talk about the music incorporated here. There’s the typical background music heard throughout episodes of the show, which I actually liked they’ve kept, but just the end credits alone have a hit followed by another– “Ocean Man” by Ween, “Spongebob and Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy” by The Flaming Lips, “Just a Kid” by Ween, and “The Best Day Ever,” the most positive song attributed to the series. And who could forget the awesome “Goofy Goober Rock,” a parody of Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock.”

It offers an understandable message for everyone to learn. In this, everyone sees SpongeBob as a kid rather than an adult and, and this entire adventure he and Patrick go on is to prove to themselves and everyone they can do anything without having that label attached to them. I didn’t know that was what the film was going for, but it’s so clear watching it now. Sometimes, it’s okay to feel like a kid once in a while and staying true to who you are. It also makes sense of those who are a bit older to still love the show and the goofiness surrounding it.

If this was originally meant to be the series finale as intended, I wouldn’t have any problems since it ends on a pleasant note. But that wasn’t the case when the show still grow a popular fanbase with fans and ratings, continuing on for another decade with new episodes that have dipped in quality after a while. We still got a sequel 11 years later with the enjoyable The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and we’re getting the third movie pretty soon. The film did well at the box office opening in second place behind National Treasure and earned $85 million domestically. Not bad. Though this wasn’t a movie that should’ve received a Best Animated Feature nomination, I’m just saying it was better than the ones that didn’t get positive reviews that got more attention, or another movie released a month prior with an underwater setting. And much like Shrek 2 the same year, I also saw this twice in theaters. 

The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie can stand on its own as a full-length feature when delivering big laughs, eye-popping animation, and enough gags for new and longtime fans to have a tremendous time. You wind up being absolutely charmed after it’s over, so you have to be the most cynical person on the planet who doesn’t find a moment of enjoyment. Don’t be that person.

Grade: B+

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie Movie Poster

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