The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

Content Caution

SpongeBob and Patrick talk to Keannu Reeves as a sentient sage brush plant.


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Bob Hoose

Movie Review

You might think that nothing ever changes in the little coral cove of Bikini Bottom. But you’d be flat out wrong! Things are always changing there. Every time the tide shifts, something crazy is going on in that underwater abode.

This time, SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail, Gary, has gone missing. Yes, missing!

How could that be? I mean snails don’t move all that fast. He could be hightailing it all day long and barely make it as far as the front door.

Well, the answer is that something nefarious is afoot. You see, there’s a certain tiny resident in Bikini Bottom who’s been maniacally bent on stealing a certain formula for a certain delicious Krabby Patty sandwich for a long time now. And he has finally decided he needs to get rid of a certain spongy Bob if he ever hopes to grab the formula.

I’ll say no more.

OK, just a little more.

There’s also a certain vain king of the sea named Poseidon whose endless supply of beautification snails is running out. And since a certain royal leader is only as powerful as his skincare regime, this conceited crown-head sends out a demand for more slimy snails.

Are you starting to see how this particular sea plot is drifting along?

Well, even if you don’t, it’s safe to say that SpongeBob is beside himself with worry. And if it means that he and his bestie Patrick need to hit the road and track down the world’s best snail ever, wellthen that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Let the buddy road trip pic begin—SpongeBob style, that is.

Positive Elements

One of SpongeBob’s greatest strengths is his ability to find something good and positive in everyone. In a series of flashbacks, we see SpongeBob as a young sponge making friends with all the sea critters he knows—freely offering kindness and his hand of friendship even to “enemies” he meets.

SpongeBob also makes it clear that friendship shouldn’t be based on anything on the outside, but what’s on the inside. “Looks don’t matter!” he says. “We don’t care about little imperfections or even big ones. What’s important is what’s inside.”

And one by one, we see that everyone—including the wicked Plankton and the grumpy Squidward—feel affection for the earnest SpongeBob. Mr. Krabs even says that his Krabby Patty formula is nothing without SpongeBob’s involvement.

The joy of adoption also plays a part in this colorful cartoon. A self-aware computer adopts a sentient robot named Otto, for instance. “I love you, Mom,” Otto says in reply. And the whole town of Bikini Bottom begin an adoption program for King Poseidon’s abused snails by story’s end, too.

Spiritual Elements

SpongeBob and Patrick have a shared dream and are led into a dusty western town—said to be a “ghost town of the damned”—by a disembodied head in a tumbleweed. This creature, named Sage, declares that their dream has a secret purpose. And he challenges SpongeBob and Patrick to figure out how to “release the imprisoned souls” of a saloon full of “flesh-eating, cowboy, pirate zombies.” (The zombies eventually dematerialize into spirit form, and those wisps ascend into the sky.)

In the midst of this live-action segment, SpongeBob and Patrick also meet up with El Diablo, a demonic character who shoots fire beams from his eyes.

Later, back in their watery reality, Sage shows up again, prompting SpongeBob to reach deep inside and find the courage to stand up against great odds for the ones he loves. Others do the same for SpongeBob.

We hear a line about the “god of La Vida Loca” in the song “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”

Sexual Content

Another lyric in “Livin’ La Vida Loca” tells of a woman who will “make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain.”

The animated King Poseidon is always shirtless; he regularly admires his flawless skin, which is said to be “like a baby’s butt.”

During a group musical number, Squidward twerks his backside. And in another scene, Plankton tries to push Patrick into small hole and actually sinks into the Starfish’s backside.

We see a calendar featuring a picture of Mr. Krabs in his underwear. And SpongeBob rips off all his clothes, except for his underwear, while partying and gambling at a casino.

Violent Content

Cartoony thumping and tumbles abound here. Heads are bopped, noses pulled, bodies pummeled. Someone is singed by a burst of flames. And SpongeBob is nearly burnt by fiery eye beams. We hear of King Poseidon’s penchant of publicly executing foes and making beheadings into a “floorshow extravaganza.” We see a picture of him holding a large sword over a victim held captive in a box. SpongeBob comes face to face with “flesh-eating zombies,” though they don’t do anything but dance.

A devil is turned to ash by beams of sunlight. Prisoner snails are forced into hard labor. A group of people are sent hurtling down an open elevator shaft. Plankton gets cut into strips and dropped into bubbling hot oil. Our heroes pile into a large suit of armor and swing and kick at a group of guards. Eventually, only Squidward is left in the armor, which is set on fire and falls out a high window. Otto, a robotic creation that Sandy the squirrel cobbles together, declares that he will become the master of all organic life.

Crude or Profane Language

“What the heck,” is called out. And another person croaks, “What the kelp is that?” Plankton calls several machines “stupid.” Someone says something is “crappy” and that someone is “super-freaking annoying.” An underwater lounge room comedian jokingly says she’s “just here for the halibut.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

After a wild night of gambling and partying, SpongeBob and Patrick have passed out, and they wake up green and headachy. We don’t actually see them drink anything, but that’s the implication of what happened the evening before.

Other Negative Elements

There are a variety of toilety giggles involving gassy noises, belches, offscreen urination, offscreen vomiting, snail defecation and the like. Gambling, as well as gambling addiction, are in the mix, too.


The SpongeBob shows and movies have always been a cartoony mix of hyperbolic quirkiness, nautical nonsense and silly sweetness. They’ve been just the sort of spongy, seawater stuff that can appeal to both young viewers and adults who never banished their inner sea urchin.

That’s certainly the case this time as well. There are winking, laugh-out-loud bits here for the older set, some kid-shaped guffaws for tykes, and some sweet messages about bravery and the childlike joys of friendship freely given.

However, if families decide to dogpaddle into Bikini Bottom, they should be aware of some odd, tangled seaweed amid the colorful coral.

Keanu Reeves playing the disembodied head of a spiritual guide in an underwater tumbleweed is strange enough. (In fact it’s I-ate-a-bad-blowfish strange.) But when you add in SpongeBob and Patrick gambling and partying drunkenly; seeking to save the souls of dancing zombies; and facing off with a live-action, demonic El Diablo himself, well, you start splashing into what many parents will likely see as troubling waters.

It all ends with a chummy grin, for sure. But kids will definitely be gobbling up more than a good ol’ Krabby Patty this go ’round.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.