WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
This new SpongeBob Squarepants compilation is really reaching for its theme. You might think that a disc titled SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas would have at least four or five episodes—okay, at least two or three episodes—that focus on Christmas. No, in fact, this assemblage has, uh, one episode about Christmas. One. To be fair, it's a double-length episode, but yeah, it's the only one of nine episodes on this disc that deals with Santa. There are a couple others that have snow in them, but that's it. Perhaps Paramount is getting lazy with these "theme" sets in anticipation of its imminent release of SpongeBob season sets.
Before you get the idea that I'm not a fan of the show, let me assure you that I love SpongeBob Squarepants. The show 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.
I'd like to say a quick word about one thing I despised about this disc: The first episode, Christmas Who?, begins with what I feel is the thudding weak link of the SpongeBob phenomenon: live-action footage. Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob) plays "Patchy the Pirate" in several mind-numbing minutes of amateur video footage that introduces the episode. I would have preferred that Paramount simply burn this footage and just present the animation. At least one other SpongeBob theme disc commits the same sin of live-action footage, and if I were a studio that happened to be releasing season sets of this show, I'd EDIT ALL OF IT OUT. Thanks for your time, Paramount.
This DVD features nine episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants, presenting the four episodes that contain snow as the main feature:
1) Christmas Who?—This is the sole episode that's about Christmas. In the absence of Santa Claus in Bikini Bottom, Squidward finds himself the unlikely red-suited replacement, thereby discovering the meaning of Christmas.
2) Procrastination—SpongeBob needs to write a paper for boating school but suffers a hilarious bout of procrastination. There's snow in here somewhere.
3) Snowball Effect—SpongeBob and Patrick enjoy a snowball fight and annoy neighbor Squidward. But Squidward soon reluctantly joins in and … he loves it!
4) Survival of the Idiots—SpongeBob and Patrick interrupt a hibernating Sandy and find that she's quite a different creature from her non-hibernating self.
The next five episodes are relegated to Bonus Episode status. I know, I know. I rolled my eyes too. It's a stupid decision. By now, I'm just wanting the season sets more and more. Why are we still getting these inane theme sets! Aaaagh!
5) Mermaidman and Barnacleboy IV—I don't usually enjoy the Mermaidman episodes, but this one was pretty great. Mermaidman loses his superpower belt at the Krusty Krab, and soon SpongeBob is abusing its powers. This episode has a great ending.
6) Chocolate with Nuts—SpongeBob and Patrick become traveling chocolate-bar salesman, trying technique after technique to sell their stock.
7) As Seen on TV—SpongeBob experiences sudden imagined stardom after having a cameo in a Krusty Krab commercial.
8) Pizza Delivery—SpongeBob and Squidward are suddenly pizza deliverymen at the request of Mr. Krabs. Of course, they get hopelessly lost.
9) Squeaky Boots—Mr. Krabs gives SpongeBob squeaky boots in lieu of a paycheck, and then, as guilt sets in, is haunted by their squeaks.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Paramount presents SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas in a vivid full-frame transfer of the series' original TV presentation. Like most animation presentations on DVD, this disc's video image is nearly flawless, boasting brilliant, eye-popping colors and deep blacks. Detail is exemplary. I did notice stronger-than-usual aliasing on my 65" monitor, particularly along Patrick's edges, which were constantly fuzzy with it. And I noticed more instances of edge ringing in this image. The line work generally looks solid, though, and there's not much distracting from this pristine image.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's 2.0 stereo track is pleasing and occasionally dynamic. I noticed nice directionality across the front soundstage. Dialog is clean and natural sounding, and sound effects are crisp. However, some of the dialog and louder screams tend toward distortion.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The disc contains an Audio Commentary over Christmas Who? The participants are Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob) and Stephen Hillenburg (the creator of SpongeBob). The two provide a slightly more interesting discussion than they provided on the Tide and Seek disc, but this is still not the most energetic of tracks. Long silences punctuate the discussion, and they tend to laugh at their own jokes a lot. Hillenburg discusses the notion of SpongeBob as an "innocent," in the vein of Chaplin or Buster Keaton or Pee Wee Herman.
Next up is the Christmas Who? Storyboard, which is the entire episode played out with storyboards and temp sound. It's a moderately interesting glimpse into part of the animation process.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
At this point, I'd definitely wait for the season sets to begin. But if you can't wait, this is an entertaining selection of episodes, even if their theme is a ridiculous reach.