I can’t say that I was ever a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants when I was younger. It just passed me by and I wasn’t really aware of its existence until I was too old to care. I briefly lived with a guy at uni who had been given the nickname Sponge and had the animated character tattooed onto his person. Still, I didn’t feel like checking it out. I didn’t watch a whole episode until I first subscribed the Netflix and started watching it ironically as an adult. I appreciated the series but I can’t say that I saw what all of the fuss was about. So, I’m not exactly the kind of person who would be rushing out to watch the latest movie but these are Covid times. Nothing really makes much sense right now so I decided to watch it. At the very least, I figured that it would work with my current reduced attention span.
I think in order to really appreciate the zany world of SpongeBob SquarePants, you really have to fully committ to the whole thing. If you’re even a little bit iffy on the details then it all slowly starts to unravel before your eyes. This certainly feels like a film that’s been made for real fans of the character and seems fuelled by in-jokes and fan service. Now we can all appreciate that there needs to be something in these films for the fans but I can’t see this being the kind of film that will create a new generation of fans. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m definitely not in the target audience for this film. I’m a 32-year-old without children who didn’t watch the show growing up. I don’t think I was the person that the filmmakers were trying to grab.
The story here is pretty simple. SpongeBob’s nemesis Plankton is back up to his old tricks and trying to steal the secret Krabby Patty recipe. I’m sure he’s succeeded in at least one film at this point, so you have to wonder why he didn’t just make a copy. Then again I’m definitely overthinking this. When he finally realises that SpongeBob is the reason that he has never succeeded and he decides to get rid of him once and for all. Plankton kidnaps the sponge’s pet snail Gary which causes the lad to take off to rescue him. Can he find Gary and get back in time to save Bikini Bottom from Plankton? Well, it won’t take a genius to figure it out how it all turns out but that really is besides the point.
These stories are never really about the destination but about the journey. The new SpongeBob movie is another in a long line of trippy and weird fever dreams. Its the kind of thing that’s a certain amount of fun to watch but it’s not exactly memorable. There’s nothing particularly special about this film but, at least, it is fairly family friendly. It will probably entertain the kids for a little while at least. From the crazy voice performances to the colourful animation and the fun interludes, this will draw younger audiences in. Especially those too young to realise how annoying and one-note he is.
When you really take a step back, you start to realise that very little effort went into this film. It isn’t just a manufactured effortlessness that actually takes a lot of work but it feels genuinely lazy. The story doesn’t hang together on carefully curated randomness but is just random for the sake of being random. The main story is simple and unimaginative. The film is fleshed out by unconnected and often unfathomable sequences. Like the pit stop SpongeBob and Patrick have to make to battle a zombie pirate army. There’s Snoop Dogg, Keanu Reeves and Awkwafina for good measure. None of these aspects are particularly bad but when viewed together it just feels messy.
There are some fun aspects here but it’s hard to ignore the fact that nobody was really trying to make this a good film. It’s what makes the final acts attempt to create an emotional origin story for the hero seem superficial. It’s a sweet enough ending but, following what has gone before, it feels shallow. I can’t say that I hated this film but I didn’t enjoy it either. It’s certainly not made me regret missing out on watching the show.