Case Number 22371: Small Claims Court

SPONGEBOB'S RUNAWAY ROADTRIP

Nickelodeon // 2011 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // September 25th, 2011

The Charge

Are you ready kids?

The Case

It's been over a decade since an irrepressible yellow sea sponge captured the hearts of children and polarized the adult population. Many parents stand adamant that "Spongebob Squarepants will never be shown in our house." And that's too bad, because it's as inoffensive a show as you will find, post-toddler years. It may not be the most educational children's series around, but the best episodes are hilarious no matter what your age.

Alas, none of the episodes on Spongebob's Runaway Roadtrip fit that category.

All five of these stories start with the same joke: one of the Bikini Bottom gang wants to show everyone else a home video of his or her vacation, and the intended audience tries to skedaddle as quickly as possible. It's not a bad idea for a theme, although the joke wears thin quickly. There are also two unrelated "bonus episodes," which represent the entirety of the extras on the disc.

Main Episodes
* "A Squarepants Family Vacation" -- Mr. and Mrs. Squarepants parents are driving Spongebob and Patrick to the Great Barrier Reef when Patrick-induced car trouble leads to a series of misadventures.

* "Patrick's Staycation" -- Patrick needs a break from his daily grind of sleeping and eating, but he can't afford to go anywhere, so Spongebob does his best to make Patrick's home into a posh resort.

* "Walking the Plankton" -- Mr. Krabs and Spongebob take a leisure cruise. Just to be safe, they bring the Krabby Patty formula along, so Plankton schedules an impromptu second honeymoon in order to steal it.

* "Mooncation" -- Sandy's trip to the moon takes a few unexpected turns when Spongebob and his "Happy Vacation" sheet cake somehow end up on the rocket ship.

* "Mr. Krabs Takes a Vacation" -- Mr. Krabs takes Pearl (and, for no adequately explained reason, Spongebob) on a family vacation, but only he is interested in their final destination.

Bonus Episodes

* "Hide and Then What Happens?" -- Spongebob teaches Patrick how to play Hide and Seek, even though it's a game they've played many times before.

* "Shellback Shenanigans" -- It's "take your pet to work day," so Plankton disguises himself as Spongebob's snail in order to witness the making of Krabby Patties firsthand.

No show can go for as many episodes as Spongebob Squarepants without losing some steam. Eventually the writers run out of ideas, move onto other projects, and new writers are hired. Over time, many different writers and directors will get their fingerprints on the product, and inevitably it will change. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Many shows -- most notably The Simpsons -- have gone through wholesale staff changeovers over time and managed to remain fresh. Change is the antithesis of stagnation, and there is nothing worse than a stale show.

Unfortunately, the denizens of Bikini Bottom have not aged as well as their primetime cousin. The most recent Spongebob Squarepants seasons lack the charm and naiveté that made the show so eminently watchable. It is as if the new writers are afraid to take chances. Instead of coming up with new ideas, they use the characters' familiar personalities to rehash jokes. For instance, when Spongebob makes a brief, unnecessary visit to Mrs. Puff's driving school, naturally her car will somehow be destroyed. The scene serves no narrative purpose; it's just there to generate a built-in laugh: "Oh look! It's Mrs. Puff's school! And her car got destroyed! Again! Hahahaha!"

The characters' personalities have changed over time as well. In "A Squarepants Family Vacation," Spongebob's parents tell Spongebob and Patrick to play in a nearby park while waiting for the car to get fixed. One look at the oil-drenched equipment gives them pause, however, and while they gingerly make a half-hearted attempt to use the swings and the slide, they are just making the best of a bad situation. Ten years ago, they would have seen the playground, yelled, "Oh boy!" and charged in, heedless of the mess. Patrick wouldn't have even noticed when the slide got stuck to him, say nothing of making a sarcastic statement about it.

Technically, this collection looks and sounds pretty much like it does on television. It's presented in its original full frame glory, with crisp lines and bright colors. The Dolby 2.0 stereo sound doesn't add much to the proceedings, but that doesn't matter; everyone's voices are loud and clear, and that's all the show needs.

Even though the writing is nowhere close to where it once was, the kids still like the characters and will suck up every moment. It's just not as fun for adults anymore.

The Verdict

If aging poorly were against the law, everyone but Susan Sarandon would be in prison. Still, Spongebob's Runaway Roadtrip feels like a half-hearted effort. Guilty.

Review content copyright © 2011 Josh Rode; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile
Studio: Nickelodeon
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

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