‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ soaks up fame on the big screen | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ soaks up fame on the big screen

Howie Nave
From left, Mindy, SpongeBob and Patrick in star in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie."

Can you hear that noise? Yes, that one. Right now the 2- to 10-year-old crowd is cheering from coast to coast – along with the Nickelodeon execs out there. Forget “Rugrats” or those “Wild Thornberrys.” No, the sound you hear is because of the biggest phenom to hit children’s television since a certain dinosaur with a glandular problem emerged.

This children’s show doesn’t even look like a professionally drawn cartoon when compared to the likes of “A Shark’s Tale” or “Finding Nemo.” Actually, the cartoon resembles the old “Ren and Stimpy” show more than anything else. The most-anticipated animated flick of the week (sure been a few lately, have you noticed?) is none other than “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

For the few uninformed out there, the popular television show of the same name revolves around a rectangular-shaped sponge with pants who lives in a pineapple and always seems happy. SpongeBob lives in the undersea community of Bikini Bottom. His friends include a squid (Squidward Tentacles), a starfish (Patrick Star) and a host of other odd sea creatures that made this a fun movie to experience.

I didn’t know what to expect – my only experience prior to this was knowing a few of the folks who voiced the characters. Some things I did enjoy about the movie were the references to another undersea flick, “Finding Nemo.” In some scenes there were parallels to that animated movie as well. I guess that’s the popular thing to do now, to keep the older “kids at heart” interested. Pretty obvious here. What I find interesting is that even animated characters must work for a living, and SpongeBob is no exception. In this case he works at the local KK – not Krispy Kreme, either. SpongeBob works at the Krusty Krab diner as a fry cook.

From the fertile mind of creator, co-screenwriter and co-director Stephen Hillenburg, comes a movie that seems to have defied the odds for what an animated film should be. Where did Hillenburg come up with some of these creations and ideas? Maybe because he was a former biology teacher? That should be a positive lesson to teach kids: that if they stay in school they, too, can be just as creative as a former teacher, as witnessed here. This is his first movie screenplay, so Hillenburg probably felt some pressure from the studio to deliver a worthy product, but then again, how can anyone argue with the fact that the studio already has a ready-made, built-in audience from the television show that will spend their money to see this movie?

All I kept thinking while watching this movie was, “I wonder if the folks who created this were once on acid?” I am not kidding, either. Look at what is going on here. As mentioned, SpongeBob lives in Bikini Bottom and something ugly has happened in his community. Mr. Krabs has been accused of stealing King Neptune’s crown, so “Sponge” and his best bud Patrick set out on a journey to right a wrong. They are on their way to Shell City.

Not following the TV series probably made it a little tougher to get to “know” the characters here, but after awhile I was able to get the gist of it. It didn’t hurt having a few kids at the screening, so I could double-check with them if I had any loose ends to figure out. I did get “shushed” a few times because I was being the pest, this time interrupting their viewing experience. Sorry.

As with most stories like this, we get bad guys and, wow, the baddies here are very imaginative indeed. Alec Baldwin voices Dennis, a hitman, and there’s Plankton (voiced by Doug Lawrence), who is bent on taking over the world once he steals the secret formula for Krabby Patty! See? Someone was on something.

There are some fine humans voicing the characters, including Tom Kenny, Jeffrey Tambor, Scarlett Johansson, James Earl Jones and a very funny cameo with David Hasselhoff playing himself. Guess he just can’t get that “Baywatch” bug outta him.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv Comedy Club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He hosts his own comedy and movie show every Friday and Sunday on Tahoe’s KRLT radio.

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