Stephen Hillenburg’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) was supposed to be the series finale for its third season (and possibly for the whole show for good). The commercial and critical success of it, however, has rekindled interests towards the franchise before finally sparking tons of additional contents (commonly described as land-sliding seasons in terms of quality). Nobody from the 2004 production might have predicted that the story continues and sparks many seasons plus two movies, including Paul Tibbitt’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) and, the latest, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.
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After Hillenburg’s departure, the show had obviously jumped the shark just like what the creator warned it to be should it continue. The movie department, however, scores better in the quality with Hillenburg and the team of long-time show writers joining in. Sponge Out of Water was a critical success, blending in the traditional animation with live action and shiny 3D animation. Stylistically, Sponge on the Run is a direct follow-up to the 2015 movie. Veteran SpongeBob writer, Tim Hill, writes and directs with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger return to write the story. Consequently, there’s a high dose of familiarity in the story—something that this sequel attempts to stick into.
The Bikini Bottom gangs make a full return with the original voice casts. From Mr. Krab, Patrick Star, Gary, Squidward, to Sandy Cheeks and other familiar faces make a worthy comeback for old fans. Sponge on the Run also retains the series’ gleeful random jokes, smart-cum-bizarre pop culture references, and enough absurdity that even Squidward can’t resist. In doing so, Hill reminds us of the true nature of SpongeBob’s stories with a prolonged arc involving snail-nap by King Poseidon and stranger-than-fiction Keanu Reeves.
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In a glance, the whole movie looks like an attempt to woo old fans (therefore, its Netflix release helps achieving this goal effortlessly). There are enough reminders to how characters are behaving in the original series. Squidward’s cynicism is at sharp-edge; Mr. Krab’s greed is without any reason; Patrick’s absurdity takes a unmeasurable turn at any given time; and SpongeBob is there to become friends with everybody. That might be the most obvious theme that, in the safest bet, works all the time. Sponge on the Run makes sure that everyone becomes what they really are and SpongeBob is gonna make friend of them all for whoever they are.
For all the effortless endeavor, Sponge on the Run might not entice non-fans, but kids, however unfamiliar with the franchise, will still find it amusing. It’s not as adventurous as the other two movies; and yet, it reminds us of the truest theme in SpongeBob SquarePants over the years. Just like the titular character itself, the movie exclaims that there’s no need to get serious when it doesn’t need to.