By Philip Murphy
Look out world! Here comes The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, starring the most absorbing animated talent ever in their feature film debut. Produced and directed by Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the hit animated TV series, the movie is a buddy-picture/road movie set in motion by one of Plankton’s evil plots.
In this case, Bikini Bottom is imperiled when Plankton steals the crown of Neptune, the king of the sea, and SpongeBob and his dim-witted pal Patrick set off to retrieve it. Not that anyone has any faith that these “kids” can accomplish this. In fact, everyone thinks they’re doomed from the start, but this only spurs on the plucky SpongeBob and his sidekick all the more!
Prior to the film’s opening, we spoke with Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, about what is so appealing about to kids about this show.
“I think people of all ages find SpongeBob appealing because he’s such a guileless, can-do kind of guy,” says Kenny. “He’s a very positive character, he’s really nice, and kids relate to that.”
“I’ve been on a lot of animated shows,” Kenny adds, “but kids react to SpongeBob in an obsessive, almost fanatical way. I think they wish they could go there to Bikini Bottom and hang out with SpongeBob and his pals.”
The show and movie seems to have sucked in an audience ranging widely in age.
“When we did the pilot, back in ’96, we thought it would appeal to 6- to 12-year-olds,” Kenny recalls, “but it just kept growing and widening out.” Over the years, Kenny has received fan mail from “people in their 90s in retirement homes,” and he also knows of someone whose child’s first word was “SpongeBob.” “So now,” he adds, “I’d have to say it’s more like from cradle to grave.”
The particular humor of the show starts with Steve Hillenburg, the show’s creator, Kenny says, noting that Hillenburg loves Laurel and Hardy. “There’s a lot of that type of humor,” he says. “The dynamic between SpongeBob and Squidward (his grumpy next-door neighbor) is very much like that, where the childlike Laurel/SpongeBob tortures the crabby Oliver Hardy character.”
And there’s a definite absurdist angle to the whole thing too, starting with the main character’s name, appearance and voice, which Kenny so ably supplies.
The movie may or may not appeal to every adult, but chances are that anyone 12 and under will adore it. It is rated PG for “some mild crude humor.”
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