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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run | Review

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Remember the time when SpongeBob SquarePants was an insanely creative children’s television program, filled with colorful characters, the best kind of childish humor, and an overall positive vibe? Remember that? If you were a child that grew up in the early 2000s, you probably remember SpongeBob‘s peak era. I watched it religiously as a child, which prompted me to force my parents to subject themselves to the 2004 film, co-directed by the late Stephen Hillenburg.

In my opinion, SpongeBob stopped being good after episode 105a aired (The Splinter). It slowly started kowtowing to gross-out body humor, the jokes became less creative, and storylines were repeated. After the [excellent] 2015 film Sponge Out of Water, I personally felt it was time to retire SpongeBob. A third movie was the perfect opportunity to give the beloved character one last adventure with his best friends, whilst at the same time celebrating Hillenburg’s career, who tragically passed away from ALS in 2018. However, it took the death of Hillenburg for Nickelodeon to start milking the cow of SpongeBob and craft its latest film, Sponge on the Run, as the backdoor for neverending spin-off shows for Paramount’s new streaming service, Paramount+. The end result is a half-fun, half soul-crushing experience that will leave some of SpongeBob’s most die-hard fans disappointed by seeing a transmedial franchise continue without its creator and a sense of finality.

Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run' skips theatre run for digital debut

The plot follows the same storyline from Have You Seen This Snail? (63), where SpongeBob (Tom Kenny)’s snail, Gary, is lost (again!). This time, however, he is kidnapped by Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), who delivers Gary to King Poseidon (Matt Berry) so he can use Gary’s saliva to rejuvenate his skin (I kid you not). What happens next? SpongeBob and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) go on a road trip to find and rescue Gary from the “evil” clutches of Posideon.

The “road trip” is as formulaic as you’d expect, since this storyline has already been done in the 2004 film, but some of it is very good. There are times where I was brought back to the early days of SpongeBob SquarePants when it wasn’t about gross-out humor or easily childish jokes. In SpongeBob’s peak era, the jokes served a purpose to the story and the characters, making them more compelling than they already were. There are expressions of that in Sponge on the Run, particularly with SpongeBob and Patrick’s chemistry. When they annoy Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) during its opening scene, by repeating “Goooood morning Patrick!”, “Gooood morning Spongebob!” until the joke climaxes to “Gooood morning Squidward!”, the voice acting and comedic timing felt like pure Hillenburg SpongeBob.

The voice acting, from Kenny, Fagerbakke, Bumpass, Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs, and Mr. Lawrence, retains Hillenburg’s spirit, and many physical gags are created in that same vein. One great addition to the voice cast is Awkwafina as Otto, a robot who has its share of hilarious jokes. One scene, in particular, involving Mr. Krabs getting the robot from Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) had me howling. It felt, oh, so refreshing to see care for SpongeBob again after the television series has well overstayed its welcome. Those jokes feel like a set-up for the end of SpongeBob, as it celebrates its heart and retains its pure, freeing, childish spirit. The 3D animation is also surprisingly good, giving the audience a fresh new look at Bikini Bottom and bringing eye-popping, lush colors to Poseidon’s kingdom, The Lost City of Atlantic City. Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the simple 2D animation of the first two films. When it went into 3D, in Sponge Out of Water, it had a purpose because the characters went “out of the water.” In Sponge on the Run, there is no difference in style and aesthetic between the hybrid sequences and the purely animated ones.

Netflix's SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run: Keanu Reeves' Sage steals the  show | Stuff.co.nz

Speaking of hybrid sequences, the one scene mixing live-action and animation feels inherently pointless and is only there “just because” the previous two films did it. The celebrity cameos from Keanu Reeves (who then becomes a supporting character), Snoop Dogg, and Danny Trejo are fun (I guess) but are also inherently pointless. There was no reason for Snoop Dogg to magically cameo, save for giving a badly directed and choreographed musical number. There was also no reason for Danny Trejo to be in the film, save for a bad physical joke involving an eclectic mesh of cowboys, pirates, and zombies. All of these jokes feel like second-grade humor and stop the story from moving forward for a good fifteen minutes. Still, this isn’t SpongeBob at its most creatively inept. That comes later.

In one sequence, as SpongeBob and Patrick are on the cusp of execution from King Poseidon, the audience will witness SpongeBob SquarePants’ death. Not by execution, but through Tim Hill’s screenplay. The entire sequence serves as a set-up to endless spinoffs and prequel series from SpongeBob without Stephen Hillenburg’s approval. Every 30 seconds, the film stops to give a glimpse to the audience at what SpongeBob‘s first spinoff series, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, could look like. If one spinoff series has already been approved and released, imagine the ones involving Bikini Bottom that are being developed as we speak… Nobody at Nickelodeon is telling studio executives to slow down or “STOP!” producing endless pieces of SpongeBob “content,” with their sole intent is to make as much money as possible.

During this sequence, die-hard fans will see no way out of SpongeBob, as it will slowly grow as stale as a soap opera without the ending it deserves. Sponge on the Run should’ve been SpongeBob’s last hurrah, his last grandiose adventure, with Bikini Bottom’s characters finally completing their cyclical arcs. Instead, the film acts as a shameless money-grab with no real throughline but to sell as many derived transmedial products as possible, whether be other TV shows, pieces of merchandise, or, heck, a Paramount+ subscription, without ever once caring for Stephen Hillenburg’s legacy. How do I know? The film’s in memoriam tribute at the end abruptly shifts to a terrible rendition of SpongeBob’s theme by Tainy and J Balvin, spitting on everything Stephen Hillenburg has accomplished for 19 years. Stephen Hillenburg deserved better. Early SpongeBob fans deserved better. It’s time to retire this franchise once and for all, as soon as possible, to preserve its legacy as one of the greatest children’s cartoons of all-time. Nickelodeon would be doing themselves a service before they hit total creative bankruptcy.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is now available to rent or buy on video-on-demand and streaming on Paramount+

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Comic Book Movies

X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!

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X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes

Plot

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

Review

X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!

https://youtu.be/mp1Pax-QHlA?si=-fFlVYBRIPnLQyVO
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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‘The Present’ Review | A Heartfelt Family Adventure with a Magical Twist

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The Present
A still from 'The Present' (The Movie Partnership)

In the heartwarming film ‘The Present,’ a young boy stumbles upon a mysterious grandfather clock with the extraordinary ability to transport him through time. Driven by the hope of reuniting his parents, he embarks on a magical journey with his siblings to prevent their family from falling apart. As they face challenges together, they discover the enduring power of love and the true meaning of family.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of time-travel movies, but ‘The Present’ is a bit different from those movies. It’s not about saving the world and defending the universe from aliens. It’s all about keeping a family together and feeling loved again. In Christian Ditter’s cute romantic-comedy film, we see Jen (Isla Fisher) and Eric (Greg Kinnear) having a dinner with their three children: Emma (Shay Rudolph), Max (Mason Shea Joyce), and Taylor (Easton Rocket Sweda). However, things go downhill when the parents announce that they are separating. The next day, an old clock that used to be in Eric’s father’s house arrives at their house and they decide to keep it in their basement. Something is written on the clock, and it reads, “This clock can help you now and then, but only you can change events.” Soon, Taylor finds out that the clock can be used to time travel and alter events. As a result, he stitches a plan, along with his siblings, to bring their parents together.

Shay Rudolph and Easton Rocket Sweda in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership’

The enchanted grandfather clock is a delightful narrative device that immediately draws the audience into a world where the impossible becomes possible. Who wouldn’t want to turn the clock back and alter certain events? The clock, intricately designed and exuding an air of mystical antiquity, serves as both, a literal and metaphorical centerpiece for the story. However, the movie is not just about the clock or what it does, it is about the extreme lengths children can go to restore their family. The themes of love, forgiveness, and the passage of time are woven throughout the film, offering moments of reflection and emotional resonance. The makers have subtly shown how challenging it can be to mend things, emphasizing the importance of understanding and empathy within familial relationships. Certain moments in the film would surely encourage you to let your family know how much they are valued.

Writers have done a great job in stitching a story that’s not complex. Everything that takes place in front of our eyes is neither flashy nor over the top, which makes the movie even more relatable. However, certain elements could have been infused to make the script even better. We could have seen a bit more emotional turmoil between the central pair to have a better idea about their state. On the other hand, the relationship between Jen and the kids should have been explored a little more. Apart from that, there are pacing issues in certain scenes, which could have been mended with tighter editing. Despite these shortcomings, ‘The Present’ is a charming film that offers a warm and engaging experience.

Isla Fisher and Greg Kinnear in ‘The Present’ (The Movie Partnership)

Acting-wise, Isla Fisher and Greg Kinner are splendid in their respective roles. Both actors are fully committed to their roles and don’t miss a beat. Fisher has evolved as an actor and it would be a travesty if we don’t see her healing a big blockbuster soon. The young cast delivers commendable performances, particularly Mason Shea Joyce, whose wide-eyed innocence and determination drive the film forward. Meanwhile, Shay Rudolph is as wonderful as Emma. The chemistry between the siblings feels genuine, their camaraderie reflecting a realistic portrayal of sibling dynamics.

Overall, ‘The Present’ succeeds in delivering a touching, family-friendly adventure. Its enchanting premise, mixed with heartfelt performances, makes it a worthwhile watch, especially for families seeking a film with positive messages.

‘The Present’ hit UK cinemas on May 24.

 

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Netflix

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 Review: Have They Lost Their Spark?

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Sam Phillips as Lord Debling, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Dearest gentle reader, Lady Whistledown is back for another Bridgerton season, and this time for her own love story (the ton doesn’t need to know). Classy as ever, Bridgerton Season 3 focuses primarily on Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton’s characters Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton as they take their friendship to another level.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

What is Bridgerton Season 3 About?

After focusing on Daphne and Anthony Bridgerton in the first and second seasons, the story is now following Colin Bridgerton’s story with the girl next door. Penelope was many things for Colin but never a love interest. She was his sister’s best friend, a girl next door, a friend, and someone who had a crush on him. It’s no secret for the viewers that Penelope had a huge crush on Colin for years, but our girl finally feels ready to move on and get her life together. She is now in search of a husband after getting her heart broken in the last season.

What Stole the Show?

Apart from Nicola Coughlan getting the most deserving highlight, Netflix did their fan service and gave more screen time to now-extremely popular Benedict Bridgerton. Benedict Bridgerton has always been one of the fan favorite characters but after this season he has certainly got a huge following. Luke Thompson’s charms deserve to be studied in a university. He seems to be people’s new crush and I don’t blame them! The beautifully written dialogues are as usual top notch.

Bridgerton is famous for many reasons, including its orchestral remix of popular songs. This season Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ is in the limelight as one doesn’t expect such an iconic party song to sound so classy. Huge kudos to the makeup and costume department for carrying the show with its theme gracefully. They certainly grasped the attention and enhanced the characters of the show.

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

What’s Bothering Us in The Show?

The scripting of the show seems rushed. It lacks the spice, passion, and the slow burn romance that defines a Bridgerton story. Colin’s character has been poorly developed this time. After being sidelined for the last two seasons this one was supposed to make him the knight in shining armor, but he rather lacks the character. He tries to help Penelope only because he feels guilty for insulting and hurting her. Later on, he ruins her chance with a great suitor only because he feels jealous for not having her. He acts like a child who wants his toy back as soon as some other child starts playing with it. He misses Penelope’s attention after seeing her happy with someone else who wants to marry her. Some may call it ‘true love’ but I believe it’s too immature and childish thing to do for a Bridgerton character. Nothing against Luke Newton but his character development is not helping the show.

Apart from lacking the slow-build and passionate love story, the show seems to have forgotten about Daphne and Simon Basset (played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page) completely. Anthony and Kate Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley) appear in one episode and are not even mentioned in the rest.

Nicola Coughlan – The Show’s Star

Nicola Coughlan is shining brighter than any star in the sky. Both Nicola and Penelope are role models for body positivity. Young girls and women across the globe highly relate to Penelope and seeing her accepting herself, being comfortable in her own skin, and getting a complete makeover to feel more like herself is bound to create a positive wave among the fans. Unlike the last two Seasons, the Third Season is also focusing on other characters of the show as well, as it creates branches and stories for potential upcoming seasons. Yet, no one and nothing shines in front of Nicola Coughlan as she wears her crown with grace.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Is It Better Than Last Two Seasons?

Each Bridgerton story has its unique charm that keeps our eyes glued to the screens. Some love Season 1, others like Season 2, and the rest prefer Season 3 but is it better than the last two? Probably not. Nothing can beat Season 1! As much as the show focuses on the ‘Friends to Lovers’ storyline, it lacks the true essence of romance and no, I’m not talking about the spiciness even though they severely lack to give us butterflies. Polin’s storyline sometimes gives us butterflies but not as much as previous seasons did. The groundwork for the couple was laid since the first season yet they are not coming as strong and passionate as expected.

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. Part 2 will be released on June 13.

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