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Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge for Hire

Paramount // Unrated // November 2, 2004
List Price: $16.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 28, 2004 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
The squishy yellow fellow goes to work

The Show
By this point, it's unlikely anyone doesn't know about Spongebob Squarepants, but just in case, here's a quick rundown: Spongebob is an anthropomorphic sponge who lives under the sea in Bikini Bottom, near his friend Patrick, a starfish, and his job at a fast-food joint called The Krusty Krab. His adventures lean toward the silly and childish, but there's plenty of material included that only adults would get. Spongebob's sheer enthusiasm for life just makes you feel good.

This DVD presents five half-episodes centered around Spongebob and his boss at The Krusty Krab, Mr. Krabs, along with three bonus half-episodes. Voiced by vocal actor extraordinaire Tom Kenny ("Mr. Show"), Spongebob goes through the gamut of emotions, always returning to happy by the time the credits roll. The show features several other familiar names behind the mic, including Bill Fagerbakke ("Coach") as Patrick, Carlos Alazrqui ("Reno 911") as Scooter and Brian Doyle-Murray (Waiting for Guffman) as The Flying Dutchman. Created and directed by Stephen Hillenburg ("Rocko's Modern Life") the show breaks new ground in terms of audience and comedy, as at it's core it's a simplistic kids series, peppered with the kind of writing that will make full-grown adults laugh out loud.

Here's the breakdown of the eight half-episodes (all of which are from Season Three):
Krusty Krab Training Video: A parody of the training video lame corporations force their new hires to watch. Spongebob's simple desire to make a Krabby Patty dominates the action, in an episode that might be a bit above kids' heads. Very funny stuff.

Can You Spare a Dime?: Spongebob's co-worker Squidward is fired because Mr. Krabs thinks he stole the first dime he every made. Squidward ends up on the street and then in Spongebob's home, where he takes advantage of his friend's goodwill. I've never found Squidward episodes to be very entertaining, as he's hardly likeable.

Missing Identity: In a diner, Spongebob tells the tale of how he lost his identity, or more specifically his nametag. The diner scenes are almost as funny as the rest of the show, with Spongebob's storytelling taking the cake.

Krabby Land: To milk kids of their money in the summertime, Mr, Krabs turns The Krusty Krab into a lame amusement park. Spongebob sees it as wrong and tries to make good. One of the less impressive segments on the disc.

Wet Painters: Spongebob and Patrick do their best to channel the Three Stooges as they nervously paint Mr. Krabs' house. Anytime Patrick and Spongebob are together, it's a recipe for fun.

New Student Starfish: Instead of waiting around, being bored, Patrick tags along when Spongebob heads to school. As is usually the case, Patrick leaves trouble in his wake. Good stuff as Spongebob's patience is tested.

Mid-Life Crustacean: Feeling old, Mr. Krabs is looking for some excitement, but makes the mistake of looking to Spongebob and Patrick to help. The story here is strictly for the older fans, with a panty raid climax.

The Camping Episode: Squidward joins the boys on a camping trip, but causes trouble when he does everything possible to attract a dangerous sea bear. Despite featuring Squidward, the presence of Patrick helps make things right.

The DVDs
Eight full-frame episodes fill this DVD, along with a handful of bonus features. The disc has an animated main menu, along with static sub-menus, featuring very nice painted art. Episodes can be viewed using a "Play All" option or an episode selection menu, while a Set-Up menu allows the choice of English or Spanish 2.0 soundtracks. There's also a special features menu. The disc comes packaged in a keepcase, but no insert.

The Quality
The full-frame video on this disc is beautiful, with all the digital brushstrokes used to paint the backgrounds easily visible. The only problems involve characters outlined in a light color, particularly Patrick, as they tend to get jagged during movement. It's not extremely bad, but if you have an eye for detail, it may bother you. The audio, presented in 2.0 Surround, is good and clear, though there's not a tremendous amount of activity to it.

The Extras
Storyboards for four episodes ("Missing Identity," "Krabby Land," Wey Painters" and "New Student Starfish") are available, each with the show's dialogue track. It's definitely an extra of value to any would-be animator. As a DVD-ROM feature, there are four recipes from the Nick Cookbook, which is essentially a plug for the book. The recipes can be printed from this feature. DVD Credits and previews for other discs are also found here.

The Bottom Line
Any Spongebob Squarepants collection is worth checking out, but considering that all these episodes will eventually (and probably shortly) be available in a Season Three box set, is this really worth the cost? It depends on how you collect DVDs. If you're a non-completist without the money to blow on expensive season collections, samplers like this are a good way to add the Squishy One to your family video shelf. If not, you're better off waiting for Season Three.

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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