Our reviews of Spongebob Squarepants: Season 5, Volume 1 (published December 12th, 2007), Spongebob Squarepants: Season 5, Volume 2 (published November 27th, 2008), Spongebob Squarepants: The Complete Third Season (published February 8th, 2006), SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Seventh Season (published December 11th, 2011), SpongeBob Squarepants: 10 Happiest Moments (published September 19th, 2010), Spongebob Squarepants: Fear Of A Krabby Patty (published August 31st, 2005), Spongebob Squarepants: Friend Or Foe? (published August 29th, 2007), Spongebob Squarepants: Home Sweet Pineapple (published January 19th, 2005), SpongeBob SquarePants: Legends of Bikini Bottom (published December 12th, 2010), Spongebob Squarepants: Nautical Nonsense / Sponge Buddies (published March 19th, 2002), Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge For Hire (published February 9th, 2005), Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob Vs. The Big One (published March 16th, 2009), Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob's Pest Of The West (published April 25th, 2008), Spongebob Squarepants: Spongicus (published April 9th, 2009), Spongebob Squarepants: The Great Patty Caper (published March 13th, 2011), SpongeBob SquarePants: The Seaside Capers (published March 13th, 2004), Spongebob Squarepants: To Love A Patty (published February 6th, 2008), Spongebob Squarepants: To Squarepants Or Not To Squarepants (published July 27th, 2009), SpongeBob Squarepants: Triton's Revenge (published September 11th, 2010), Spongebob Squarepants: Truth Or Square (published November 20th, 2009), Spongebob Squarepants: Where's Gary? (published December 14th, 2005), Spongebob Squarepants: Who Bob What Pants? (published November 13th, 2008), and Spongebob's Runaway Roadtrip (published September 25th, 2011) are also available.
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!
Call me crazy, but I think SpongeBob SquarePants is the best animated American comedy since The Simpsons. There have been so few successes and so many failures that it's refreshing to see a great animated comedy surface.
After various single disc compilations, Paramount has made the decision to issue season-by-season box sets of the popular Nickelodeon show. They have delivered a first rate package, slightly tarnished by one small flaw, which we'll discuss later.
Facts of the Case
Under the sea, in a town called Bikini Bottom lives SpongeBob SquarePants. A childlike adult sponge who lives in a pineapple, SpongeBob means well but often gets into trouble with his best friend, Patrick Star. He also manages to irritate his next-door neighbor Squidward Tentacles on a daily basis.
SpongeBob and Squidward work at the Krusty Krab, the undersea equivalent of McDonald's. The owner, Mr. Eugene Krabs, sounds like a pirate and pinches pennies tighter than Ebenezer Scrooge. Adding to the craziness is Sandy Cheeks, a female daredevil squirrel who decides to live underwater for a new challenge, and Plankton, hell bent on ruling Bikini Bottom by discovering the secret behind the Krabby Patty.
I know the above description doesn't sound very promising, but this show defies description. It's a bright, sunny animated comedy that delivers big laughs and even well earned sentiment. In an era when children's made for TV animation is often third-rate junk, it's great to see a show that is great fun, but lovely to watch.
As for my claim that SpongeBob SquarePants is the best animated American comedy since The Simpsons, it is a claim I stand behind. It is true that we have had good animated comedies over the years such as King of the Hill, Futurama, and Family Guy, most attempts at a half-hour animated comedy have fallen flat. (Does anyone even remember God, The Devil and Bob?) Anyway, SpongeBob SquarePants is accessible to all. Adults will enjoy the witty satire and sly in-jokes subtly inserted into every episode. Children will love the bright colors, spunky pace, and lively characters. Best of all, parents will not have to worry about violence or crude humor.
It's hard to describe the appeal of SpongeBob. On the surface, he seems to be this annoying block of Swiss cheese who has a laugh that would rival Fran Drescher's. But that's a shallow position to take. There is a sweetness and innocence to him that is really nice. Too many cartoon characters have become cynical and downbeat and it's just refreshing to see something upbeat and good hearted. Of course, a show isn't complete without a gallery of supporting characters. Patrick Star is the village idiot, who sometimes gives SpongeBob some really bad advice, but he is a loyal friend and that's something we don't see much of these days. Squidward is a cross between Bert (Sesame Street), Woody Allen, and Roger Addison (the grouchy next-door neighbor on Mr. Ed, but he has some heart, if you can find it. He's the straight man for his neighbor's antics. Mr. Krabs is greedy, but he fills the Fred Mertz role quite nicely. Sandy Cheeks is a strong female character, which is refreshing to see.
Vocal talent is top notch for an animated series. Tom Kenny is the perfect choice to voice SpongeBob. The voice could be annoying to some, but it contains the right amount of innocence and wonder that we would expect from this sponge. Bill Faberbakke is the voice of Patrick Star, a sort of underwater Dauber (his Coach character). Patrick is the definition of stupid and his antics will have you laughing out loud. Rodger Bumpass (what a name!) gives Squidward his Bertesque voice. Mr. Lawrence (real name Doug Lawrence) originally auditioned to play SpongeBob but was hired as a writer and created Plankton (which utilized the same voice in the audition). Carolyn Lawrence (no relation) is Sandy, a variation of her normal voice but it works for this specific character. The biggest surprise is Clancy Brown, who gives Mr. Krabs his voice. Who would have thought that the actor who played Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption (and who usually plays dark, disturbed characters) would be better known as the cheap, crusty Krabs? It's quite a performance.
Forty episodes are spread out over three discs. I have rated them on a scale of zero to five starfish:
"Tea at the Treedome"
"Naughty Nautical Neighbors"
"Home Sweet Pineapple"
"Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy"
"Squidward, the Unfriendly Ghost"
"Employee of the Month"
"I Was A Teenage Gary"
"Fools in April"
"Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy II"
The full frame transfer is stunning in its brilliance. It is sparkling clean and beautiful to watch. After seeing some television shows get lackluster treatment on DVD, it makes me thrilled to report the great care and work that went into this flawless transfer. If you have only seen SpongeBob on television, you have to see it like this. The colors are brighter, visuals clearer, and it makes it easier to appreciate the animation. This is Paramount's best work to date.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound mix is superb. Free of defects and problems usually associated with sound recorded for television exhibition, dialogue and music come through clean and clear. Again, Paramount's best work to date.
For the fans, a treasure chest of extras are included:
• "The Origin of SpongeBob SquarePants" Featurette:
Creator Stephen Hillenburg discusses the creation of SpongeBob and how he
evolved from a college comic strip to the spunky yellow sponge we all know
today. Worth a look.
Most of these extras are found on the third disc, but the commentaries appear on the first and second discs respectively.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is not quite the complete first season. "Help Wanted," the episode that shows how SpongeBob came to work for the Krusty Krab, is missing from this set. I don't know why Paramount chose to omit this episode; without it, this set is hardly The Complete 1st Season, is it?
It's a small flaw in an otherwise top notch package.
While some may find SpongeBob (and his laugh) annoying, those people aren't going to give this set a try no matter what I say. I'm appealing to fans of animation, comedy, or both. Rent this set (or any of the SpongeBob discs out there), or check it out on Nickelodeon if you get it in your neighborhood. There is much to enjoy, even in the lackluster episodes.
With a retail price of $49.99 for three discs, fans do not need my endorsement to pick this set up.
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Scales of Justice
• Cast Commentaries on "Plankton!" and "Karate Choppers"
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