I’ve been a fan of Spongebob Squarepants ever since I was a little boy; binging the first six seasons, first two movies, video games and celebrity guest appearances. But as much as I like and respect the show for its seemingly overbearing range of content and entertainment, the show has suffered a heavy decline since the late 2010’s and it hasn’t gotten better since series creator Stephen Hillenberg passed away two years ago. So desperate as I was to cheer myself up after what 2020 has given us, I prayed that “Sponge On The Run” would either give me a brief little glimpse of the Spongebob of old or at least keep me entertained with its silly gags and antics.
Of course not. It’s f’n 2020: This is why we can never have anything nice.
The animation that was used in the previous movie makes a return here and offers some visually exquisite imagery and effects despite being superfluous to the longer the film drones on for. It’s actually kind of fun to look at and it’s a step up from the previous movie. And of course, the voice acting is top tier, cinematography is average, editing isn’t a problem and.....I dunno, I guess I’m just a sucker for Keanu because I enjoyed his performance more than I had the right to.
Everything else is just...it’s just shit. Not only did they get rid of the original narrator but they also swapped out the entire Hawaiian ukulele guitar OST from the show and replaced it with Hans Zimmer....which was not a good decision. I’m sorry, I love Hans but this was not the music this type of material needed. It picks up and loses momentum’s one too many times that it becomes ridiculous, lot of the scene inserts try really hard to be surreal and trippy without a coherent arc, it plays a lot of social commentary with all of its themes, all of which are handled rather annoyingly thanks to Nickelodeon’s incredibly outdated production values and every character is a victim of lazy writing with Spongebob being the worst offender. But perhaps what really pisses me off about the film is it’s two biggest sins. One: the severe lack of comedy. Sure, it applies a lot of visual and running gags directly from the show that were subtle enough to get maybe a chuckle out of me every once in a while but the rest almost never land. Having a Spongebob movie or episode without any of its hyperactive comedy basically renders its entire structure null and void since whatever story and pacing it runs on is almost squarely dependent on the comedy that it’s built around and what makes this scenario even worse here is because had any of its jokes landed, it would’ve made the.....proverbial lack of story just a fraction more entertaining.
And two: the godawful betrayal of a storyline. It starts off with a very by-the-numbers plot that could’ve worked within the grand scheme of things, had it been the movies only core plotline. After we leave Bikini Bottom, the film’s narrative structure completely shits the bed; nearly half an hour in and the story completely gives up on actually having a story of any kind. Just because you bring up a specific trope or cliche you’re mimicking doesn’t take away the fact that you’re still going through those familiar motions. And then we get to the multitude of plotholes that retcon most of the events and characters everyone liked in the original show to hop on the marketable baby trend. Not to mention the fact that the entire reason this movie exists is to set up a Spongebob spin-off show that fans and even the late Stephen Hillenberg himself specifically stated he didn’t want.
Look, I can be convinced to overlook the gaps within the shows timeline. After all, continuity has never been a strong suit to the show but that’s why I’m pissed off. It’s bad enough the soundtrack, flashbacks, and celebrity cameos screamed executive meddling and over-commercialization but for the writers to rewrite Stephen's original script for this movie to make it a lazy rehash of "Have You Seen This Snail?" and then effectively spit on his legacy by downright ignoring or overwriting all character history in doing so and THEN have the temerity to slap a cheap tribute screen at the end to earn some cheap pathos and brownie points is not just a disgrace; it’s freakin’ despicable not only to Hillenberg but to the fans who loved this show growing up and to those who Stephen inspired to fulfill their dreams of becoming artists and animators.