[box cover]

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you can't immediately answer that musical question then you've somehow managed to avoid the bizarre and delightful cultural phenomenon that is SpongeBob SquarePants — although you may have heard of the cartoon in connection with a bizarre, utterly wrong-headed attempt by Christian fundamentalists to deem young SpongeBob an undersea homeosexual. A square yellow sea sponge in four-sided cardboard pants, SpongeBob does, indeed, live in a pineapple in the oceanic town of Bikini Bottom — his best friend, Patrick, is a big pink starfish who lives (literally) under a rock and his next-door neighbor, the cranky Squidward, resides in a house that looks like an Easter Island head. In translating his always hilarious, oft-times surreal television cartoon creation to the big screen, animator/ex-marine biologist Steven Hillenburg has delivered a fine, free-standing adventure for SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), who go on a quest to retrieve the stolen crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor) and put the kibosh on a plot for world domination hatched by Plankton (Doug Lawrence), arch-rival of SpongeBob's boss at the Krab Shack, Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown). A classic hero's journey wrapped up in crayon-bright colors and abject silliness, the story takes SpongeBob and Patrick across the county line into territory rife with not-too-scary monsters as they attempt to prove their manhood, chafing at repeated suggestions that they're "just kids." Bolstered with the confidence imbued by a pair of false mustaches granted them with "mermaid magic" by Neptune's kindly daughter, Mindy (Scarlett Johansson), the sponge and the starfish finally prove themselves in an epic battle opposite a hired killer named Dennis (Alec Baldwin) on the backside, thighs, and calves of (we kid you not) a Speedo-clad David Hasselhoff. Of course, the question still remains — is SpongeBob gay? Well, the sexuality of any cartoon character resides firmly in the filthy-minded perceptions of the beholder — if someone wants badly enough to label Bert and Ernie, Tinky Winky or "Scooby-Do's" Velma as perverted deviates, well, they'll find ample evidence in the privacy of their own fevered imaginings. The reality is, SpongeBob, like most cartoon characters, is an innocent child at heart, and the SpongeBob movie's joys lie in the same territory as similar comedy by child-like entities like Pee Wee Herman, Buster Keaton, and Mr. Bean. So get your mind out of the gutter. Paramount's DVD release of The SpongeBob SquarePants movie offers a stunning, bright, crisp anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with colors that pop off the screen and exceptional Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (in English or French with English subtitles). The extras are less impressive, including a talking-heads "behind-the-scenes" featurette that seems designed as a primer for people utterly unfamiliar with the series; two educational undersea featurettes, "Behind the Sponge 'Bob'" with Hillenburg and Jean-Michel Cousteau, and "Saving the Surf," an animatic of the opening pirate-ship sequence. Also included are a game demo and trailers. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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