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Spongebob Squarepants: Heroes of Bikini Bottom

Paramount // Unrated // June 14, 2011
List Price: $16.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 27, 2011 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
More absorbent, yellow, porous fun

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation
Likes: Some Nickelodeon shows, Spongebob
Dislikes: Episode-collection DVDs, Squidward
Hates: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy

The Story So Far...
Spongebob Squarepants is a silly little sea sponge (who looks like a kitchen sponge though) who lives in Bikini Bottom with his friend Patrick the starfish, inflicting his sunny disposition and hare-brained ideas on the others in his city. The show chronicling his adventures has run for over a decade on TV, with a feature film to boot. Nickelodeon has released an obscene numbers of Spongebob DVD collections, in season, half-season, mega-sets and four-episode releases, and DVDTalk has reviews of many of them.

The Show
This set of Spongebob episodes, like pretty much every Nickelodeon episode collection, has one episode related to the title of the disc, and then a relatively random sampling of episodes, though all four hail from the show's seventh season. The lead episode this time out, is probably the weakest, though your mileage may vary, since my view of it is based mainly on the presence of Spongebob's heroes, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. The joke is that Spongebob idolizes them because of the TV adventures he watched, but now they are old men, voiced by Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway, in a far-less-than-heroic fashion. I can appreciate the joke and I like the way Borgnine and Conway play their roles, but they tend to take over their episodes (as is the case here.) The second half, which is almost a pure MM/BB adventure where Spongebob watches a lost episode of their show, is even less enjoyable, with far less Spongebob. The only redeeming factor of the first half is having the younger Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy voiced by Adam West and Burt Ward, an obvious, but still enjoyable bit of casting.

The remaining three episodes almost perfectly represent the show's now-standard episode types, including two Squidward stories, pitting Spongebob against his snobbish neighbor; a Gary tale, with Spongebob's pet snail; a Patrick-focused episode; a story with Spongebob's boss, Mr. Krabs; as well as yet another face-off with his driving instructor, Mrs. Puff. With a decade of Spongebob behind us, these are stories we've seen many times before, which makes them a tougher sell. That they, as a group, just aren't that great, doesn't help either. The theory some Spongebob fans hold is that creative changes following the series' feature film brought down the quality of the show, and episodes like "Summer Job," where Mrs. Puff has to train under Spongebob to work at the Krusty Krab, repeating the same conflicts of previous episodes, make it hard to argue that.

Though there's not a story on this disc that I would turn to when choosing a Spongebob show to watch, it's not all bad, as there are at least two worth a look, and they are in the same episode. It's hard to go wrong when you center your episode around Spongebob and Patrick, as their good-natured idiocy usually makes for a good time. But in "Yours, Mine and Mine", where they fight over ownership of a Krusty Krab toy, something is a bit off. Part of it is the negative feeling whenever Patrick has the upper-hand on Spongebob, but it's also less fun to see them in conflict. That show is paired with "Kracked Krabs," where Spongebob travels to the Cheapest Crab Convention with his boss. It's mostly about the cheapness of the crabs, with Spongebob serving as observer and as a pain the neck of Mr. Krabs, as he attempts to win the title of Cheapest Crab. Even so, it's mostly an enjoyable 15 minutes.

Even when the show isn't hitting, as seen in "Keep Bikini Bottom Beautiful" and "A Day Without Tearts" (unsurprisingly both Squidward-focused stories), the skill and talent that goes into the episodes is undeniable. From the main cast, led by the wonderful Tom Kenny, to the oddball guests, like West and Ward (and the perfectly cast Mary Jo Catlett as Mrs. Puff), the voices are spot-on, while the animation remains consistently enjoyable, blending true creativity with the established look of the series. Perhaps the problem is, after nearly 300 stories, the characters have reached the limits of what you can do with a bunch of pals goofing around. There's always a chance a new spark can be found (The Simpsons certainly turned it around after some lackluster years) but it didn't happen in these episodes.

The DVDs
Four half-hour episodes from the seventh season of Spongebob Squarepants are included on this single-disc release, which is packed in a standard keepcase. The DVD features an amusingly designed full-frame menu with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out extras. There are no audio options or subtitles, but closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The full-framed transfers on this disc look as good as you'd expect, which is to say very good, with appropriate color and a high level of fine detail, showing off the painted backgrounds nicely. Everything looks as good as it does when broadcast on Nickelodeon, and there are no obvious compression artifacts to be found.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is solid, but in no way eye-opening, as the mix is right down the middle, with nothing dynamic at all. It's the same basic cable audio presentation you get on TV, without any distortion issues.

The Extras
Up first is a trio of so-called "animated shorts,' which are really just Nickelodeon commercials for the series. Built around the "Back to the Past" episode, they are about 36 seconds each, and don't offer a lot in terms of entertainment.

The other extra the third episode of the first season of T.U.F.F. Puppy, featuring "Mall Rat" and "Opration: Happy Birthday." This series, starring the voice of iCarly's Jerry Trainor is a fun, old school action comedy, featuring Dudley Puppy, a dim-witted dog, and his spy partner Kitty Katzwell, as they save the world as part of the secret agency T.U.F.F. It's goofy and silly, and this episode is a fine example of the show's quality.

The Bottom Line
This is just another handful of late-run Spongebob episodes, so you're already behind the curve, but having one of them be a Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy show just drags it down further. As usual for Nickelodeon, the disc looks and sounds fine, but comes up way short in terms of extras, so you're doing just as well recording these shows off TV.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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