I took my 10 year-old and her friend to see the “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” the other night. My daughter didn’t think much of the cartoon feature, nor did I. Disappointing more, because we’re both big SpongeBob fans, and we saw the movie with a big crowd of kids quick to laugh. Sigh.
The problem: Timing. What’s the saying about comedy and timing being everything? SpongeBob episodes have good timing, and they have to. Episodes can’t be much more than 10 or 12 minutes long. Pace is fast moving and the laughs going rat-tat-tat. For 90 minutes there has to be a script capable of sustaining nine times the typical SpongeBob segment. Instead, the movie felt like one episode stretched and stretched and stretched.
Earth to Hollywood (or is that TV land?): If you’re going to take something people can watch for free and charge them eight bucks a ticket to see, it had better be a whole lot better than the freebee. Sadly, the “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” isn’t worth the ticket price. And that wouldn’t be a first for Nickelodeon Studios. The “Hey Arnold” movie is another disappointing feature poorly adapted from the small screen. At least the “Rugrats” movies entertained.
But the SpongeBob movie could have worked and from the same story. For starters, the producers should have divided the movie into nine separate episodes strung together around a twisting plot; the familiar approach could have created comic momentum—sustained relaxed and sustained again, nine times.
Producers could have done more to include major characters, like Squidward and Sandy, that had little more than bit parts in the movie. Examples: Sandy’s a land creature, couldn’t she have engineered a daring rescue later on in the movie? Squidward could have been a comic foible, working against SpongeBob’s and Patrick’s quest. Any number of reasons would do.
The movie could have worked. The energy was there. But not the inventiveness that makes SpongeBob SquarePants one of the funniest cartoons on TV.