The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (2020) Review

Never in a million years would I end up feeling bored watching a SpongeBob SquarePants movie. The first two live-action/animated features — released in 2004 and 2015 respectively — were both irreverently fun and entertaining that did justice to the popular Nickelodeon animated series. The third one, however, is a polar opposite altogether. More like hitting rock bottom, to be exact.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, which is currently available for streaming on Netflix in the international markets (excluding the US, Canada and China), actually has a potentially fun premise: SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) discovers his beloved pet snail Gary (also Tom Kenny) is missing upon coming home from work one day. With the help of his best friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), they embark on a cross-country journey after learning that Gary has been kidnapped snailnapped to the Lost City of Atlantic City.

From there, I was expecting the movie would deliver all the madcap fun synonymous with the franchise. But writer-director Tim Hill — a SpongeBob SquarePants veteran who also happens to be one of the co-developers and former series writer– fails to make the best use of the premise. Sure, there are few minor laughs every now and then but hardly enough to offset most of the movie’s surprisingly flaccid and uninspired direction. It doesn’t help either that the movie feels more like an overlong sketch than a coherent feature.

If that’s not insulting enough, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run continues to ruin further with not one but two lengthy stretches. The first one involved SpongeBob and Patrick finding themselves in a ghost town while encountering flesh-eating cowboy pirate zombies led by El Diablo (Danny Trejo). Other than the novelty factor of introducing Keanu Reeves in a tumbleweed who called himself as Sage, the whole stretch feels like it desperately needed to go back to the drawing board and start over.

SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Gary the snail in "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run" (2020)

Then, there’s the disappointing third act that overstays its welcome with the extended sequences serving as a set up for the upcoming 2021 spin-off series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years. The spin-off that would focus on the SpongeBob characters during their childhood era. Stephen Hillenburg, the late creator who died from the ALS-causing heart failure in 2018, once stated he was against the idea of having spin-offs.

While it’s nice to see the series’ regulars reprised their respective voice roles, the movie lacks a memorable, let alone worthwhile villain voiced by Matt Berry as King Poseidon. The decision of wholly embracing The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run into a full-fledged CG animation gave me a mixed feeling, even though they do look vibrant and colourful.

Perhaps that explained why the third movie was a victim of date reshuffle, which originally set for February 2019 release. It got delayed several times after that, with one of them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the hard times that we are facing right now, a movie like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run would be perfect timing as an antidote of sorts to keep us entertained and distracted even if it only lasts 91-minute long. Too bad that didn’t happen.