The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (2020)
Like a long episode of the TV show
I like SpongeBob. He’s a fun character who makes for easy TV watching. His laughs come easy and never feel like they’re at anyone else’s expense. But he’s never seemed like good movie material. Previous SpongeBob films weren’t anything special, but they were fun enough. They felt like really long episodes of the show. And that description just about fits The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run as well.
SpongeBob and Patrick have to go to the Lost City of Atlantic City to retrieve SpongeBob’s pet snail, Gary. Guided by a tumbleweed spirit called Sage, the two have to retrieve Gary from King Poseidon. However, they must first make it past the many distractions in Atlantic City.
With the current state of the world, you would think I’d be in a hurry to see Sponge on the Run. It has a silly premise, a likable lead and no emotional investment…a perfect pandemic movie. But I put off watching this for a while. The same was true for the two previous movies as well – and there was no pandemic back then. I think the reason is because SpongeBob just doesn’t translate well to the big screen. Even when backstories, 3D animation and guest stars are added, a SpongeBob movie still feels like nothing more than an expensive episode of the show.
What I liked
I was surprised by how much I liked the 3D animation in Sponge on the Run. It could just be a result of recent advances made in 3D animation technology (see my reviews for Soul and Raya and the Last Dragon). But it’s always tricky when 2D characters are changed to 3D, because they often lose a lot of their original essence in the process (think the Yogi Bear and early-2000’s Scooby-Doo movies). But Sponge on the Run successfully converts the SpongeBob gang from 2D to 3D without losing anything. In fact, it works so well that the look feels like a fresh upgrade for the characters for the big screen.
What I didn’t like
The plot of Sponge on the Run feels a little too episodic. The adventure is on par with any other adventure the gang would have on the TV show. The two previous movies at least had the characters interact with the real world. Here however, the entire thing is underwater (except for a desert town sequence with live-action ghosts). The characters don’t stray far enough from the TV show to warrant this movie.
There’s also a missed opportunity in Sponge on the Run. There are a few weak musical numbers scattered throughout the movie. I actually would have enjoyed the movie more if the filmmakers had leaned in and made a full musical. I honestly think that’s the missing ingredient to making this movie feel like more than just a very special episode of the TV show. If the plot was built around proper strategic musical sequences, the entire movie would have been lifted to the cinematic level.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a fun watch. It doesn’t require any emotional investment so it’s truly light viewing. If you keep your expectations low, you’ll have a fun time with this movie.
Source: Paramount Pictures (2020)