He may be absorbent and yellow and porous, but wring SpongeBob SquarePants out and he barely contains enough substance for one full-length film, much less three.
And yet, we now have “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” following in the sloshy footsteps of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” (2004) and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (2015). They’re all fine for the littlest of kids, who likely will delight in the zany adventures and colorful animation. Voiced as always by a reliable Tom Kenny, SpongeBob is deliriously enthusiastic about everything and he’s certainly pleasant company—a sunny diversion during these troubling times.
But much of what’s made the “SpongeBob SquarePants” TV series such a joy over the past 20-plus years is its zippiness. These quick bursts of entertainment, with their eccentric characters, surreal energy and silly wordplay, are perfect in bite-size bits. Stretched out to 90 minutes in “Sponge on the Run,” the pacing lags, the goofiness sags, and you discover over time that there’s not much holding these antics together. This latest film, written and directed by “SpongeBob” veteran Tim Hill, feels especially thin, as it’s actually a launching pad for “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.” The animated series—featuring a “Muppet Babies” version of SpongeBob and his pals meeting for the first time in their youth—just happens to begin airing on Paramount+ the same day as this movie in a bit of streaming synergy.
Again, if you’re a harried parent seeking some mindless happiness for your children and a little “me” time while you’re stuck at home, this is a totally suitable choice for everyone involved. Far be it for me to judge. I’m right there with ya. And there are a few celebrity cameos aimed more at grown-ups’ amusement. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking—although this is the first of these films to be produced entirely through CGI, so at least there’s a visual slickness that’s novel.