SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) is an unlikely pop culture hero. A peppy and optimistic sea sponge, he should be a one-joke wonder but for more than two decades the character, who looks like a bright yellow kitchen sponge with googly eyes and little brown shorts, has soaked up love from kids and adults alike.
His new CGI adventure, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run,” playing in theatres now, sees the animated invertebrate living in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom where he is a fry cook at Krusty Krab, the most successful restaurant in the sea. Life is good for SpongeBob and his friends like the dimwitted but funny starfish Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) and restauranteur Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) until SpongeBob’s beloved pet Gary the Snail (also voiced by Kenny) is kidnapped by the wicked and vain ruler of The Lost City of Atlantic City, King Poseidon. With the help of Patrick and a wise tumbleweed played by Keanu Reeves, SpongeBob sets off on a perilous rescue mission.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run” brings with it the usual anarchy, inside jokes and unexpected celebrity cameos, but at its little osmotic heart is SpongeBob, a character who belongs to the same genus of entertainers as Soupy Sales, Stan Laurel and Pee Wee Herman. He, like his predecessors is sweet and unpredictable with a surreal streak that transcends silly and borders on high art. I think that’s why SpongeBob has survived and thrived as other characters of his vintage have faded. He’s silly enough for kids but surreal enough for the parents and underneath it all is a current of decency that transcends age.
In his television show and in the movies, including this new one, the rules of physics and storytelling may not apply, which is usually fun, but the things that make SpongeBob human (you know what I mean) are always on display. He’s loyal, caring, values his friends and is always optimistic. Those qualities are baked into “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run” and that, along with the absurd situations make it enjoyable for fans old and young.