THOUGHTS ON THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE

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Saw THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE last night. It’s a kid’s flick, but a really funny, really good kids flick. I liked it a lot.I’m still warming in the afterglow of the greatness that is THE INCREDIBLES – Pixar’s film is a classic, aimed at all audiences and works on all levels. SPONGEBOB is the best in the recent crop of TV-spinoff movies – a group which includes the RUGRATS movies (they are better than they have any right to be), THE POWERPUFF GIRLS MOVIE (with its strong designs), and TEACHER’S PET (excellent humor, design and direction) – It’s perhaps the best Nickelodeon Movie thus far (full disclosure, I used to work for Nick Movies developing animated features), it encompasses the subversive nature of the channel, the network’s kids empowerment message and great animation design that is classic, yet takes full advantage of the medium’s surreal language.It’s not perfect – but it’s good moments are really good – the highlight for me being the song Spongebob and Patrick sing about being “men” while marching through a monster filled trench – featuring the coolest alien creature designs I’ve seen since Kimball’s MARS & BEYOND.While the animation itself is adequate, the star of the show are the strong layouts, poses, hilarious facial expressions, great comic timing and even funny sound effects (I noticed a cool sound cue from an old Speed Racer episode at one point, but I think I was the only person in the theatre who “got it”).As an animation historian, I thought it was great that this Paramount release has so much combination live action and animation (like Koko The Clown, which Paramount once distributed long ago) and in the Goofy Goober ice cream sequence there is an homage to two early Paramount cartoon stars – Krazy Kat and Popeye – on the wall behind the characters (look close – there’s a panel from the first comic strip appearence of Popeye, and a classic Ignatz & Krazy brick tossing drawing).It’s not the greatest animated film of the year – but a refreshing, worthy, funny holiday movie that is certainly encouraging during this time of 2-D suppression.