Spongebob Squarepants is one of those rare animated shows that can be enjoyed equally as much by both adults and children. The utterly ludicrous concept of a talking sponge (who works at a fast food joint called The Krusty Krab) named Spongebob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and his adventures with his starfish friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) and his crotchety neighbor Squidward (Roger Bumpass) are easily dismissed as simply another kids cartoon. However, if you take the time to pay attention to the dialogue and situations used throughout the series, you'll definitely understand why the show has garnered a sizeable cult following made up of people from all ages. Though it's been the subject of some bizarre controversies over the years (James Dobson famously accused the show of having a pro-homsexual agenda and more recently the University Of Virginia conducted a study which apparently proves the show leads to attention span problems!), it's popularity doesn't seem to have waned even after more than ten years of broadcast history.
With that said, as with any great show, it's tough to keep the momentum going year after year after year and this seventh season (now thankfully presented in its entirety and not in multiple volumes as seasons past have been), which ran from 2009 through 2011, isn't on par with the earlier seasons. It's not that this more recent material isn't fun, because it is, but by this point in time storylines are beginning to get a little repetitive and as such, the series doesn't seem quite as fresh and original as it once did. Far too often we're once again stuck with plots in which Plankton tries to steal Mr. Krabs' secret Krabby Patty recipe or another one in which SpongeBob tries to get his driver's license. There are a few interesting stand outs here, the Spongebob's Last Stand story finds SpongeBob and Patrick reworking sixties style folk songs as protest fodder when it looks like things will be going awry for the jellyfish fields that they spend so much time in when a proposed highway is to be built over top of them. Another highlight includes the Tentacle-Vision episode, in which the writer's try something new by giving Squidward his own television show but a lot of this season's content does seem to be more on the repetitive and predictable side.
The episodes that make up the complete seventh season of the show are spread across the four DVDs in this set as follows:
Tentacle-Vision / I Heart Dancing / Growth Spout / Someone's In The Kitchen With Sandy / The Inside Job / Greasy Buffoons / Model Sponge / Keep Bikini Bottom Beautiful / A Pal For Gary / Yours, Mine And Mine / Kracked Krabs /The Curse Of Bikini Bottom/ Squidward In Clarinetland
Spongebob's Last Stand / Back To The Past / The Bad Guy Club For Villains / A Day Without Tears / Summer Job / One Course Meal / Gary In Love / The Play's The Thing / Rodeo Daze / Gramma's Secret Recipe / The Scent Of Money
Legends Of Bikini Bottom: The Monster Who Came To Bikini Bottom / Welcome To The Bikini Bottom Triangle / The Curse Of The Hex / The Main Drain / Trenchbillies / Sponge-Cano / The Great Patty Caper / That Sinking Feeling / Karate Star / Buried In Time / Enchanted Tiki Dreams / The Abrasive Side / Earworm
Hide And Then What Happens? / Shellback Shenanigans / The Masterpiece / Whelk Attack / You Don't Know Sponge / Tunnel Of Glove / Krusty Dogs / The Wreck Of The Muana Loa / New Fish In Town / Love That Squid / Big Sister Sam / Perfect Chemistry
A few of the more memorable episodes this time around, aside from those already mentioned, include the bizarre The Inside Job which quite literally finds the mischievous Plankton gaining unprecedented access to SpongeBob's brain - but will he be able to handle what lays inside? Back To The Past sends SpongeBob and Patrick on a time travelling adventure while Gary In Love shows us what happens when SpongeBob's beloved meowing snail pet finds true love. More Gary-centric episodes always go over well with this viewer, so it was nice to see him get some much deserved attention in this season. The Curse Of The Hex is a strange one that shows us how the myriad employees of Bikini Bottoms' finest eating establishment react when they believe that their place of employment has come under a supernatural curse. The Abrasive Side is also notable as it shows us what it would be like if SpongeBob were less agreeable and more likely to stand up and say 'no' to his friends and co-workers than he normally is. Throughout all of this though, are a lot of fairly standard and predictable storylines that deliver pretty much what you'd expect from the show at this point: jellyfishing, money grubbing bosses, stern driving instructors, amiable underwater squirrels, dopey starfish and grumpy neighbors.
With just so much SpongeBob material available on Nickelodeon each and every day of the week, it's hard to imagine this season's material, which isn't the series' best, doing much in the way of attracting new audience members but those who enjoy the show and don't necessarily need (or in the case of some younger viewers, want) the show to deviate from the norm, there's plenty of fun to be had here. Even the lesser episodes are still interesting enough on a visual level to please most fans and the characters are still as fun, quirky and likeable as ever, even if they tend to be doing a lot of the same thing over and over again. The series makes up for it, however, with some screwy loveable characters, some unexpected but ultimately very funny musical numbers, a few unexpected plot twists on the more original episodes noted and that almost indescribable atmosphere of zaniness and kindhearted antics that make the series as popular as it is with kids of all ages.
The seventh season of SpongeBob Squarepants special is shown in its standard 1.33.1 fullframe broadcast aspect ratio and not so surprisingly it looks just like the rest of the releases in the
SpongeBob Squarepants line of DVDs. Colors are bright and crisp and there isn't any print damage to speak of. There is a bit of edge enhancement and some shimmering effects in a few of the episodes, but other than that, these cartoons look pretty good and none of the video issues take your attention away from the on-screen action.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix sounds pretty good. Once again, as with the earlier releases in the series, there's nothing to note in regards to hiss or audible defects. The directional effects are minor at best but the lefts and rights are distinguishable in the mix, and there aren't any problems following the dialogue and the background music is mixed and balanced to fit in with the dialogue and effects quite nicely. There are no alternate language options or subtitles but English closed captioning is provided.
Extras are slim here, limited to four series of animated shorts that relate to the following episodes: Back To The Past, SpongeBob's Last Stand, Legends of Bikini Bottom and The Great Patty Caper. These run from thirty to ninety seconds each and are moderately amusing but they don't really amount to very much. Aside from that, there are menus and chapter selection options - but that's all there is.
This latest collection of episodes is not a high point in the series but it's still decent enough family friendly entertainment, even if it does get too repetitive for its own good. The extras are slim but the shorts are admittedly pretty enjoyable and the presentation is good. If you're not a completists, you can probably live without this series but those who enjoy the show should consider SpongeBob Squarepants - The Complete Seventh Season recommended and thanks to Paramount/Nickelodeon for finally giving fans a complete season in one single release rather than splitting it up over multiple collections.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.