Sponge on the Run will be released in the UK on the 22nd of May 2020.
There are few cultural icons more beloved among Gen-Z TV watchers than Spongebob Squarepants. Arriving at a perfect moment in history, the formative years of the generation that would then go on to pioneer meme culture, Spongebob has since become a precious work of art, capable of the kind of visual slapstick and comic virtuosity that has rarely been seen on television since the Looney Tunes.
When the show then leapt to the big screen for the first time in 2004, it didn’t lose any of its smarts; but there wouldn’t be another cinematic iteration of the sponge who lives in the pineapple under the sea for another 11 years, with Sponge Out of Water in 2015. A more direct sequel, the third in the presumably ongoing Spongebob film franchise, is now coming, titled Sponge on the Run.
Purists beware: it’s the first of the series to be animated entirely using 3D CGI animation rather than the loving, 2D hand-drawn style. However, to quell the anxieties of the die-hards, all the usual suspects in the cast are coming back. Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke are returning as Spongebob and Patrick, respectively, while Roger Bumpass is lending his nasal affectations once again to Squidward Tentacles.
The producers have confirmed also that parts of the film will be done in live-action, which potentially explains why the cast list contains a certain Keanu Reeves, still on his hot streak after John Wick 3, Toy Story 4 and that weird Netflix movie where he had a cameo that was ruined by the trailer. Joining him in the star-power section of the cast is rising star Awkwafina and some newcomer called Snoop Dogg.
Sadly, it is also the first film in the series to be made without the involvement of the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who died of ALS in 2018. There is, hence, a worry that Hillenburg’s absence will make this a less interesting affair than Spongebob’s previous outings. Coupled with the fact that director Tim Hill’s biggest film credits to date include Alvin and the Chipmunks and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (don’t ask, I didn’t know it existed either).
Hill is also a veteran of the Spongebob universe, having helped as a story editor for the TV show in 1999, and from 2005-07. So, yes, if ever there was a time at which to prove his directing skill, it would be here, to honour Hillenburg’s memory but also to live up to the expectations of a former Spongebob worker. The film’s premise – that Spongebob must save Gary the Snail from the clutches of Poseidon – also apparently sets the film up for some nostalgia points, as it will reveal how Spongebob came across Gary in the first place. As a memoriam to Hillenburg, it in fact sounds rather appropriate.
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