Case Number 20308: Small Claims Court

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: LEGENDS OF BIKINI BOTTOM

Nickelodeon // 2010 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jeff Robbins (Retired) // December 12th, 2010

The Charge

"I'm the most miserable person in Bikini Bottom. What do I have to be thankful for?"
-- Squidward Tentacles's response to SpongeBob SquarePants's suffocating enthusiasm.

Opening Statement

SpongeBob SquarePants is without question one of the funniest animated programs not called The Simpsons or not airing on the Boomerang retro cartoon network. Unfortunately, most of the six new-to-DVD episodes on SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom fall short of the program's usually high standards. However, fans of the recently departed ABC show Lost may delight in many parallels and obvious homages to that groundbreaking program found in these shorts.

Facts of the Case

SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom features six episodes centering on various mythical aspects surrounding the undersea city known as Bikini Bottom, home to our titular character as well as his friends, co-workers, and his beloved place of employ, The Krusty Krab.

The Evidence

My son has an exasperating tendency to excitedly get into a character or television show and, just after my wife and I have bought him several toys and DVDs related to said character or show, moving quickly on to something else, whereby the process repeats itself.

Outside of the hundreds of dollars lost in buying newly unwanted crap, typically I'm OK to see each obsession pass. (Life without the horribly annoying Pokemon or the dumbed-down Krypto the Superdog is especially sweet.) But I have to say I was a little sorry to see my son's SpongeBob SquarePants phase end quickly. When he started embracing Nickelodeon's most popular show, I too immediately grew attached to the program's humor and figured SpongeBob would be part of our lives for years to come.

Alas, it was not to be. (Damn you, iCarly and Big Time Rush!) Therefore, I anticipated the release of SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom as a terrific opportunity to revisit some dear old undersea friends.

Unfortunately, the half-dozen episodes contained here support my son's decision to move on: They simply aren't that funny and, taken together, are unworthy of their own separate DVD release.

The problem here is the very theme that links the episodes together. Yes, by stringing together six segments that focus on the mythology of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom makes a coherent package.

But by presenting what at times feels like an hour's Lost parody, the majority of these segments get too far afield from what typically makes SpongeBob SquarePants so funny -- that is, the hysterical interplay between the eternally cheerful SpongeBob, his dopey best friend Patrick Star, his tortured co-worker Squidward Tentacles, and his money-grubbing boss Mr. Krabs.

The episodes contained in SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom are as follows:

* "The Monster Who Came To Bikini Bottom" (11:43)
As Lost had its "smoke monster," Bikini Bottom has its behemoth, which looks like a cross between the carnivorous plant from Little Shop of Horrors and one of the stars of the failed UPN sitcom The Mullets.

This is by far the finest of the shorts included and was likely the impetus for the producers to forge ahead with the remainder of the lesser episodes found on SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom. What works here is the grotesque monster's hilarious connections with SpongeBob and particularly Patrick, who form an initial friendship based on their mutually disgusting armpit odor.

What is also notable here is the episode's ending, which features a brilliant call-back to an earlier seen flashback (more shades of Lost) that ties up the threads of the episode as well as any Larry David penned half-hour. This first short is SpongeBob at its best.

* "Welcome To The Bikini Bottom Triangle" (11:01)
This second episode revolves around a mysterious location that is ruled by a trio of materialistic mermaids who occasionally summon the transportation of random objects to satiate their greed. Exchange "triangle" for "hatch" and the mermaids' call for the entering of numbers every 108 minutes on Lost and you get an idea for what inspired this short. Besides Patrick Star's hilarious horniness for the triangle's mermaids and the revelation of SpongeBob's internal "Krabby Patty Meter," there's little of interest here.

* "The Main Drain" (10:58)
Here we learn how all of Bikini Bottom was once sucked up by two kids who unwittingly caused an apocalypse of the sea. Reminiscent of the need to protect "the source" at the heart of Lost's island. Not a good episode.

* "Trenchbillies" (10:59)
An improvement on "The Main Drain," this segment finds SpongeBob and Patrick captured by a scary-looking pack of hillbilly fish. Features a good "Dueling Banjos" type segment during which Patrick plays SpongeBob's suspenders like a stringed instrument. The titular characters are an obvious homage to not only Deliverance's hillbillies, but also to Lost's "Others." This episode is also notable for Mr. Krabs's utterance of "It's now or never" on the way to the men's room.

* "Sponge-Cano" (10:59)
The second-best episode on the disc, "Sponge-Cano" includes tons of good SpongeBob/Squidward interplay, including a terrific musical number in which SpongeBob chirpily sings of his "attitude of gratitude." Squidward is delightfully nasty here, but his depressively downbeat outlook on life comes back to bite him when the locals learn that the only way to stop the volcano on Mount Bikini from erupting is to make a sacrifice of the most miserable person in Bikini Bottom. Though Lost was short on musical numbers, the dramatic climax on the edge of the volcano recalls the Juliet/Sawyer scene on the edge of the shaft in the Lost episode "The Incident." A strong segment.

* "The Curse Of The Hex" (11:51)
Unfortunately, this lousy episode ends the disc on a sour note as a hagfish curses The Krusty Krab. The only notable aspect to this dull segment is that the hagfish is voiced by Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig, which, depending on your current view of the comedy institution, may make the episode more or less interesting. Either the writers got tired of attempting allusions to Lost by this point, or I simply got tired of looking for them.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom contains a smattering of bonus features, but they're brief and fairly useless. The most substantial extra here is a featurette entitled "Behind-the-Scenes: Legends of Bikini Bottom" (5:08), which features brief snippets of a table read and some storyboard samples, all related to the disc's "The Main Drain" episode. I always enjoy seeing the actors behind the voices, but this short segment is only intended to provide the most superficial information possible for SpongeBob's youngest audience, as indicated by actor Tom Kenny's painstakingly thorough description of what is meant by the term "table read."

Elsewhere, there are three brief animated shorts, "Things To Do When Encountering Legendary Creatures" (:36), "Dance Break" (:36), and "The Legend of SpongeBob" (1:06). While these are obviously disc filler, "Dance Break" does include one very funny visual gag that made me laugh harder than anything else on SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom. So they're worth checking out.

No surprises here with the audio and video treatment ofSpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom. The episodes, in their normal full-screen television exhibition aspect ratio, look very good, and the Dolby Digital stereo is everything you need it to be. Elsewhere, the six episodes can be played as one 68 minute program, or the segments can be accessed individually, as can, for whatever reason, the disc's credits.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Even a bad episode of SpongeBob SquarePants is better than a good episode of not only most Nickelodeon programs, but many television comedies targeted at adults. The laughs are scattered here, but they can be found. For fans hurting over the recent lack of new SpongeBob episodes, there are worse ways to spend $15.

Closing Statement

With more elaborate SpongeBob packages available at not much more than the cost of this hour-long disc, and with these new-to-DVD episodes reportedly to air on Nickelodeon in January, it's tough to recommend SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom to anyone but the most die-hard SpongeBob fans or to anyone still pining away for the island exploits of Dr. Jack Shephard and John Locke.

The Verdict

SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom, get Lost. Guilty.

Review content copyright © 2010 Jeff Robbins; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile
Studio: Nickelodeon
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurette
* Bonus Shorts

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0206512/combined

* Official site
http://spongebob.nick.com/