‘Sponge on the Run’: A new SpongeBob movie could never be a bad thing

Aside from all the cameos — by Keanu Reeves, Awkwafina and others — it’s basically an extra-long TV episode, and just as silly.

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In “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” our underwater hero must rescue his pet snail, Gary.

Paramount Animation

How many SpongeBob Squarepants movies do we need?

Simple: more.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is the third full-length feature starring the friendly, goofy sponge and his underwater friends and neighbors from the long-running TV series. Written and directed by Tim Hill,it is just as silly, goofy, absurd, nonsensical and utterly delightful as the rest of the catalog.

‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’

Untitled

Paramount Home Entertainment presents a film written and directed by Tim Hill. Rated PG (for rude humor, some thematic elements, and mild language). Running time: 91 minutes. Available now on Paramount+ and on demand.

“Do I smell a road trip?” SpongeBob asks near the beginning of the film.

“That could be my breath,” his best friend Patrick replies. If you think that’s funny, welcome aboard. If you don’t? Boy have you wandered into the wrong movie review.

The movie, now streaming on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) and on demand, starts with an introduction to Bikini Bottom and its residents for the uninitiated. There’s SpongeBob (voice of Tom Kenny), of course, along with the sweetly stupid Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), constant whiner Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), greedy boss Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) and scientist squirrel Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence).

There’s also Mr. Krabs’ hapless evil nemesis Plankton (DougLawrence), for my money the greatest of all “SpongeBob” characters and one of my favorites on any show. He is currently on evil plan No. 3,087, he says. None have worked. He’s a failed nihilist, but not for lack of trying.

The film is basically an extra-long episode of the show with lots of guest stars.

King Poseidon (Matt Barry) needs a new snail — he uses their slime as part of his beauty regimen. He puts a call out for a new one when his runs dry, and Plankton steals Gary, SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail, and gives it to the king.

This means SpongeBob and Patrick will have to set off for the lost city of Atlantic City, which is described as a “scary, vice-ridden cesspool of moral depravity.”

“Wow, all that and it’s lost, too?” Patrick says.

Patrick also notes that this is going to be like “one of those buddy movies,” and it is. But what buddies!

Along the way, they are assisted by Sage (Keanu Reeves — yes), who is a wise tumbleweed. “I’m made out of sage and I am a sage, so it works out pretty well,” he says. He’s there to provide SpongeBob and Patrick with tests and to bolster their courage. To Reeves’ credit, this isn’t just a mail-it-in cameo. He takes the role seriously. Well, you know. Sort of. He takes the job seriously, let’s say.

There are cameos from Awkwafina, Reggie Watts, Danny Trejo, Snoop Dogg and Tiffany Haddish, among others.

But the best parts of the movie are those shared by the core characters. There’s a sequence in which we learn about how many of them met SpongeBob (which serves as a nod to “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years,” a new prequel series on Paramount+ ). It’s disarmingly sweet.

The whole movie is (so is the show). No, it doesn’t have the emotional complexity of the best Pixar movies, like “Up” or “Inside Out.” “SpongeBob,” in whatever form it takes, does one thing and does it really well: absurdist humor with a sweet center. I’m hesitant to ever say that this-and-such thing is “what we need right now,” so I won’t say that about the film.

But I will say that “SpongeBob” is what we need all the time. The more the merrier.

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