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‘Sponge on the Run’ Is Proof of How Much We’ve Missed ‘SpongeBob’

The new movie debuted this week and it's a keeper.

Paramount+

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And there’s something to be said for stability. That diner in your old hometown remains open 30 years after you moved away, and upon revisiting the place, your favorite waitress approaches your table and asks, “The usual?” Or you turn on Seinfeld after years of having last watched it, and somehow you’re still laughing at Kramer’s iconic entrances. That’s what it’s like to watch The SpongeBob Movie: SpongeBob on the Run. It’s déjà vu all over again, in the best way possible. Sure, your kids are all grown up, but you’ll still laugh, and some of you just might be doing so in the company of your grandkids.

Now streaming on the freshly christened Paramount+, Sponge on the Run is classic SpongeBob: silly, engaging, entertaining, familiar, and relentlessly upbeat, from the music to the voiceovers (Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, and the rest of usual suspects) to the clear, crisp, bright and photo-realistic animation. And in the tradition of Tom and Jerry, and Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, the story is basically the same as always. Plankton schemes his 3000th or so plot to steal Mr. Krabs’ secret formula for his ever-popular Krabby Patties. His latest plan? Get rid of Gary, SpongeBob’s snail best friend/pet, get rid of SpongeBob. Thus, Plankton snailnaps Gary and delivers him to King Poseidon, the uber-vainglorious ruler of the Lost City of Atlantic City, who requires snail slime to keep facial wrinkles at bay.

Horrified to discover his pal missing, SpongeBob teams up with his well-meaning but clueless starfish amigo, Patrick, for a rescue mission. “This is going to be like one of those buddy movies!” Patrick enthuses as they depart Bikini Bottom. And he’s so right. Cue the action, which involves a car-driving robot (voiced by Awkwafina), flesh-eating dancing zombie pirate cowboys (in a scene also featuring live-action versions of Danny Trejo and Snoop Dogg, the latter of whom was last seen trying to take over the world in another wonderfully wacky project, Unbelievable!!!!!), sequences on land, dollops of sage advice from a tumbleweed named Sage (with the live-action head/voice of a charmingly playful and loose Keanu Reeves oh-so-patiently guiding SpongeBob and Patrick), an extended visit to the Lost City of Atlantic City (with its roller coasters, gambling and unlimited food), a pivotal flashback to how SpongeBob, Patrick, Emily and Squidward met at camp as youngsters, and a courtroom trial.

Whether you’re 6 (the youngest anyone watching the movie should be) or 66, Sponge on the Run’s one-hour, 40-minute running time zips by. It’s loaded with kid-appropriate absurdity and also jokes (spoken and visual) that will crash like waves over the heads of little ones but connect with adults. And the earnest messages will register with everyone. For example, Plankton comes to realize revenge doesn’t feel as good as he assumed. Other key lessons: Friendship and bravery are everything, and courage is within all of us. As annoying as SpongeBob can be at times — OK, most of the time — even Squidward misses the guy. And the secret ingredient in every tasty bite of a Krabby Patty is… well, we don’t want to spoil everything. Let’s just say you’ll soak it up like a…

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is streaming now on Paramount+.