Paramount // 2001 // 471 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // February 8th, 2006
"She seems mysterious so I'll call her Mystery. She also seems graceful and majestic, so I'll call her Grace, or Majesty, or Debbie." -- from "My Pretty Seahorse"
Are you ready, kids?
Of course you are, and you have good reason to be. Arguably the best season of the Nickelodeon mainstay has washed ashore on DVD in a package that leaves little to quibble about.
The package includes every season-three episode of SpongeBob SquarePants spread out over three discs:
* "The Algae's Always Greener"
* "SpongeGuard On Duty"
* "Club SpongeBob"
* "My Pretty Seahorse"
* "Just One Bite"
* "The Bully"
* "Nasty Patty"
* "Idiot Box"
* "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV"
* "Doing Time"
* "The Snowball Effect"
* "One Krab's Trash"
* "As Seen On TV"
* "Can You Spare a Dime?"
* "No Weenies Allowed"
* "Squilliam Returns"
* "Krab Borg"
* "Rock-A-Bye Bivalve"
* "Wet Painters"
* "Krusty Krab Training Video"
* "SpongeBob's House Party"
* "Chocolate With Nuts"
* "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V"
* "New Student Starfish"
* "SpongeBob BC"
* "The Great Snail Race"
* "Mid-Life Crustacean"
* "Born Again Krabs"
* "I Had an Accident"
* "Krabby Land"
* "The Camping Episode"
* "Missing Identity"
* "Plankton's Army"
* "The Lost Episode (The Sponge Who Could Fly)"
* "SpongeBob Meets The Strangler"
* "Pranks a Lot"
I doubt there's a soul in the western hemisphere who doesn't by now know who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Yep, it's SpongeBob SquarePants, that little yellow squishy fellow from Bikini Bottom who pursues life's simple pleasures while sticking firmly to the straight and narrow. "Simple pleasure" also happens to be an apt description for this unlikely hit 'toon from Nickelodeon.
Each episode lasts less than 15 minutes, and the storylines are flimsier than a piece of kelp (SpongeBob and his starfish neighbor, Patrick, play in a cardboard box; SpongeBob and Patrick sell chocolate bars; SpongeBob and Patrick paint Mr. Krabs' living room). But the show's charm lies in the vast world of nautical nonsense (to quote the show's yo-ho-ho theme song) creator Stephen Hillenburg has dreamed up. It's a world of aquanaut squirrels, clarinet-playing squids, underwater campfires, retired superheroes, plankton obsessed with world domination, and the most head-scratching family units I've ever come across (a crab and a puffer fish are parents to a teenage whale, while pint-sized Plankton is married to a no-nonsense computer named Karen).
Then there's goofy, good-hearted SpongeBob himself, content at having achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a fry cook, but forever in pursuit of the elusive driver's license. With his grating machine-gun laugh, it's amazing that he has any enduring appeal. Still, with rare exception, SpongeBob winds up the hero of the story, usually thanks to his natural goodwill or sheer dumb luck. He's the Forrest Gump of the cartoon world.
Unabashedly silly and brimming with non sequiturs, SpongeBob SquarePants' punchlines have a sneaky habit of blindsiding viewers (one memorable episode from another season features a surprise cameo by Nosferatu himself, Max Schreck), and the setups are, more often than not, fiendishly clever for a kid's show (how SpongeBob and Squidward arrive at the conclusion that Mr. Krabs is a robot had me giggling).
Season three remains the high point for the series, producing such classics as "No Weenies Allowed," "SpongeBob Meets The Strangler," and "Krusty Krab Training Video," a hilarious parody of industrial training videos. The one misstep is "The Lost Episode," which veers too far away from Bikini Bottom and into unfunny live-action territory.
The show's aggressively colorful production design has a distinctive Polynesian flavor (think Termite Terrace by way of Hilo Hattie), and its ukulele-and-slide guitar soundtrack is a charmer. Both are well preserved on this set. The image is, to my eye, free of flaws and blemishes. From SpongeBob's sunshine yellow to Mr. Krab's fire engine red, the colors are every bit as bold and rich as fans would expect. The Dolby 2.0 Surround isn't exceptional, but it provides a pleasant listening experience. The audio is clean and crisp, with the rear speakers being wisely reserved for the show's endless sound effects. The package does not include subtitles.
The most intriguing extra is the series' pilot episode, "Help Wanted." It's intriguing not because of its content (although I tip my hat to any show featuring a fry-cook montage backed by Tiny Tim's "Living in the Sunshine, Loving in the Moonlight"), but because of the obvious question it raises: Why release it now instead of in its natural spot with the first season? Regardless, SpongeBob completists will cherish its inclusion here.
Also on deck are optional pop-up trivia tracks for "My Pretty Seahorse," "No Weenies Allowed" and "Krusty Krab Training Video." This feature is interesting without being intrusive, and the tracks contain their fair share of fascinating factoids (almost a third of SpongeBob's viewers are 18 or older) and a sprinkling of bon mots that are funny because of their sheer irrelevance ("Julie Kavner is the voice of crabby 'Patty' on 'The Simpsons'").
Finally, the package has a half-hour tutorial in drawing SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, Squidward, Sandy and Plankton. The storyboard artists on this feature seem like nice enough fellows, but I found myself chucking wads of paper and erasers at the TV in frustration after several failed attempts at drawing the deceptively simple-looking Plankton. Believe me, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Come to think of it, that pretty much goes for SpongeBob SquarePants as well.
SpongeBob's third outing provides a treasure trove of silliness and belly laughs. It's easily one of the show's best seasons, and fans will want to snatch it up.
Very well said, Gary. Very well said indeed.
Review content copyright © 2006 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 471 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Pop-Up Video Track on select episodes
* "Help Wanted" (Pilot episode)
* "How-To-Draw SpongeBob And Friends" featurette
* DVD Verdict review of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete First Season