WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
SpongeBob Squarepants is the coolest Saturday morning cartoon since the heyday of Warner Brothers. The show has gathered a significant cult following, and understandably so: This is kids fare with a decidedly adult sensibility.
SpongeBob Squarepants follows the completely ridiculous and nonsensical adventures of the titular square sponge as he and his friends frolic under the sea. It's a seascape in which characters can draw breath, light fires, and even befriend a squirrel in a wetsuit. SpongeBob is hopelessly square in more ways than one, always fantastically cheerful and juvenile and prone to misadventure. There's also SpongeBob's best buddy Patrick, an amorphous blob of sloth, and the feisty Squidward, the cranky squid who wants only to play his clarinet but is foiled at every turn by the well-intentioned but blissfully unaware SpongeBob and Patrick. And there's Sandy, the aforementioned squirrel, who hails from Texas but has for some reason decided to join the crazy sea dwellers in the town of Bikini Bottom.
This DVD features ten 11-minute episodes of SpongeBob:
1) Ripped Pants sees our hero trying to fit in among his peers by ripping his pants to hilarious effect. Unfortunately, the humor wears thin, and SpongeBob must reconsider his garment-rendering tactics.
2) In SB-219, SpongeBob and Patrick hound Squidward to join them for a day of jellyfishing (i.e., fishing for jellyfish), and Squidward hides out in the deep freezer at the local burger joint, The Krusty Krab. He freezes into a solid block of ice and the story picks up 2000 years later.
3) Texas is Sandy's moment to shine, as she pines for home, deciding finally to leave Bikini Bottom for Texas. SpongeBob and Patrick do everything they can to keep her around.
4) In my favorite, The Graveyard Shift, Squidward terrorizes SpongeBob with a scary tale of a spook who has a spatula for a hand. The tall tale comes back to haunt Squidward.
5) In Something Smells, SpongeBob and Patrick are cursed with atrocious breath. When fellow sea dwellers run away in horror from the foul stench, our two heroes think everyone hates them.
6) Jelly Fishing is about a day that SpongeBob and Patrick spend jellyfishing with the mute and incapacitated Squidward, who finds himself on the bad end of a mammoth and vengeful jellyfish.
7) In Dying for Pie, Squidward accidentally feeds an explosive pie to SpongeBob and vows to befriend the porous cube before he meets his doom at sunset.
8) Wormy finds Patrick and SpongeBob babysitting a pet worm for Sandy as she vacations in Texas. To the boys' horror, the "worm" metamorphoses into a terrible butterfly over night.
9) In F.U.N., SpongeBob befriends the poor maligned Mr. Plankton, who is forever obsessed by the secret recipe of The Krusty Krab's famous burger.
10) In Club SpongeBob, SpongeBob and Patrick and Squidward are hopelessly lost in a kelp forest and the two boys trust in the wisdom of a "magic conch shell" to save them. Their blind trust in a piece of plastic drives Squidward absolutely batty.
SpongeBob Squarepants is an extremely funny cartoon, as you might gather from these synopses. I only wish, as usual, that Nickelodeon had chosen to release episodes according to full seasons rather than randomly.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Paramount presents SpongeBob Squarepants: Nautical Nonsense and Sponge Buddies in a 1.33:1 transfer of its original full-screen TV presentation. Like most animation presentations on DVD, this disc's video image is nearly flawless, boasting brilliant, eye-popping colors and deep blacks. Although some aliasing will be present on large monitors (surely, SpongeBob wasn't intended for 65" screens), the line work generally looks solid, and certainly there's nothing distracting from this pristine image.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that is actually quite engaging. The stereo imaging is pleasing and occasionally dynamic. Dialog is clean and natural-sounding, and sound effects are crisp.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The DVD offers a few extras to intensify your SpongeBob experience. Although they're brief, these features are very welcome and interesting.
First up is Backstage Pants, which I hoped would be a lengthy featurette but is actually a feature that lets you access behind-the-cels snippets while the episodes play. When the image of SpongeBob appears in the lower-right corner of the screen, you can press Enter to access very brief video matter. Some of this information is fun, such as the origin of the show's theme song, but some is incredibly brief at only seconds long and is quite forgettable. Also, you have to wait for long periods for that little icon to appear.
On a separate menu titled More SpongeBob Squarepants Secrets, you can access a few more tidbits about the origin of the show, recording sessions with the voice actors, and a brief music video of the theme song performed by the Violent Femmes.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Notice to Paramount: Bring on the season sets!