Movie reviews: 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run' is enjoyable for fans old and young
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN: 3 ½ STARS
SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) is an unlikely pop culture hero. A peppy and optimistic sea sponge, he should be a one-joke wonder but for more than two decades the character, who looks like a bright yellow kitchen sponge with googly eyes and little brown shorts, has soaked up love from kids and adults alike.
His new CGI adventure, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run,” playing in theatres now, sees the animated invertebrate living in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom where he is a fry cook at Krusty Krab, the most successful restaurant in the sea.
Life is good for SpongeBob and his friends like the dimwitted but funny starfish Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) and restauranteur Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) until SpongeBob's beloved pet Gary the Snail (also voiced by Kenny) is kidnapped by the wicked and vain ruler of The Lost City of Atlantic City, King Poseidon. With the help of Patrick and a wise tumbleweed played by Keanu Reeves, SpongeBob sets off on a perilous rescue mission.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run” brings with it the usual anarchy, inside jokes and unexpected celebrity cameos, but at its little osmotic heart is SpongeBob, a character who belongs to the same genus of entertainers as Soupy Sales, Stan Laurel and Pee Wee Herman.
He, like his predecessors is sweet and unpredictable with a surreal streak that transcends silly and borders on high art. I think that’s why SpongeBob has survived and thrived as other characters of his vintage have faded. He’s silly enough for kids but surreal enough for the parents and underneath it all is a current of decency that transcends age.
In his television show and in the movies, including this new one, the rules of physics and storytelling may not apply, which is usually fun, but the things that make SpongeBob human (you know what I mean) are always on display. He’s loyal, caring, values his friends and is always optimistic. Those qualities are baked into “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on The Run” and that, along with the absurd situations make it enjoyable for fans old and young.
UNHINGED: 2 STARS
“Unhinged” is the kind of b-movie that normally would have gone straight to DVD or streaming but in our topsy-turvy pandemic world, where the rules are being constantly rewritten, the new Russell Crowe psychothriller is playing only in theatres this weekend.
Hairdresser Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is having a rough time. The young mom is in the midst of a brutal divorce and her brother and his girlfriend are unwelcome guests at her home.
Today she’s stuck in traffic and if things don’t get moving, she’ll be late for both an appointment with a client and dropping her son (Gabriel Bateman) at school. Pulling her Volvo tight behind an idling truck belonging to Tom Cooper (Crowe), she honks her horn and triggers an epic fit of road rage. “I need you to learn what a bad day is,” he says, “and I need you to learn how to say sorry.”
Subtlety, thy name is not “Unhinged.” From Crowe’s snarling, sweating psychopath and a bloody “courtesy tap” to emasculation and car crashes, the movie delivers a buffet of b-movie pleasures. Crowe spits out lines like, “I’ll make my contribution this day with violence and retribution,” and amps up the angry but like the movie itself, he’s one, loud note.
Director Derrick Borte begins the film with context, a long montage of current world ills, suggesting that things are falling to pieces because we lack civility, but then forgoes any kind of social commentary in a story that relies on shock and awe to fill the screen with violent images.
At one point Cooper talks about being an “invisible” man and, after a diner scene, it’s clear he has no love for divorce lawyers, but that’s it for character development. He is simply a dangerous man who has been cut loose of the bonds of polite society.
In the relatively small sub-genre of Crazed Driver Movies—“Duel” and “The Hitcher” come to mind—“Unhinged” distinguishes itself by keeping the pedal to the metal without providing anything new in the way of thrills. As a study of an emasculated man seeking revenge it brings to mind “Falling Down,” Michael Douglas’ 1993 black comedy, except “Unhinged” is all darkness and no comedy.
SPINSTER: 3 ½ STARS
“Spinster” is being billed as “the anti-rom-com of the summer” and if there ever was a genre that needed a kick in the pants it’s the romantic comedy. Director Andrea Dorfman does more than that, curb-stomping the tired old boy-meets-girl formula in a story that celebrates self-empowerment and independence over slow motion runs through airports.
Chelsea Peretti of “Brooklyn Nine Nine” stars as Gaby, a wedding caterer whose boyfriend dumps her on her thirty-ninth birthday. Her friends encourage her to get back into the dating world but she’s not so sure. To avoid ending up like her great Aunt Elise, dead in a bathtub, undiscovered for a week, she tries speed dating and on-line sites but, she says, “I’d full-on rather be knitting.”
In the absence of a romantic life she fills her time hanging out with her niece Adele (Nadia Tonen), watching his brother Alex (David Rossetti) do terrible stand-up comedy and caring for her recently adopted “used dog.” As her fortieth birthday approaches, and the dream of owning her own restaurant comes closer to reality, she finds happiness in self-love and a speech from the opening scene reveals itself not to be prophetic. (SPOILER ALERT)
“Everyone, deep down, wants someone to love,” bride-to-be (Amy Groening) tells Gaby early on. “It’s why Shakespeare ended all of his comedies with a wedding!”
“Spinster” has many charms. It has a wisecracking sense of humour courtesy of writer Jennifer Deyell, a snappy score by composer Daniel Ledwell and a firm hand in director Dorfman. Best of all it has Peretti whose practiced deadpan delivery brings some edge to the story. She has a way with a line but she also leads us down the path to Gaby’s self-discovery. As she helps Adele find confidence in her young life, Gaby is blossoming in her own. Her journey has warmth, believability and a great deal of humour.
“Spinster” is a nicely crafted, if somewhat modest, story of looking for and finding satisfaction in one own life, no matter what others say. It’s about a certain kind of love, but colours outside the rom com lines to create something refreshing.
NEVER TOO LATE: 3 STARS
“Never Too Late,” story of four friends, separated by distance, experience and fifty years starring James Cromwell, is sweet and sentimental but has a serious message at its core. The four Vietnam vets chase their dreams to VOD this week.
After a daring escape from a Vietnamese POW camp, Jeremiah Caine (Dennis Waterman), Jack Bronson (Cromwell), Angus Wilson (Jack Thompson) and Bruce Wendell (Shane Jacobson) were called The Chain Breakers. Half a century later they’re reunited at the Hogan Hills Retirement Home for Returned Veterans when Bronson checks himself in under the guise of recovering from a serious stroke. He’s conned his way into the facility not to hang out with his old pals but to reconnect with the love of his life, former combat nurse Norma (Jacki Weaver).
“Sometimes it takes a lifetime to find a happy ending,” she says. But soon after the meet she is transferred to another hospital for a three-month drug trial for Alzheimer’s Disease, leaving Bronson and Company behind.
Thrown together once again in a different sort of prison, Bronson rallies the troops for one last operation of daring do. “We’re the Chainbreakers,” he says. “We don’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we get the job done. I’m going to finish this mission.” They’re not as young as they used to be, but Bronson devises a plan, a run to freedom and Norma.
It’s “The Great Escape,” senior’s style.
“Never Too Late’s” feels like a light, old-codger comedy but at its heart, right next to the pacemaker, is a commentary on how seniors—and in this case, veterans—are treated in long term care. Hogan Hills is essentially a jail with barbed-wired grounds, attendants who behave like guards and while there are no bars, there are more locked doors than Riker’s Island. It’s a timely social issue and is given a fair treatment here.
The engine that keeps “Never Too Late” moving forward, however, are the actors. The Australians, Waterman, Thompson and Jacobson, offer up broad comedic performances tempered by enough sentimentality to make their hijinks likable. Cromwell and Weaver, however, bring the humanity. Their relationship, and their shot at happiness after fifty years, is the is the soul of the film. A subplot involving an evil doctor (Renee Lim) looking for revenge feels wedged in and briefly disrupts the movie’s flow.
“Never Too Late’s” predictability—let’s face it, we all know where this is going—is blunted by the actors and the warmth of the characters who get one more shot at adventure and happiness.
BLACK WATER: ABYSS: 2 ½ STARS
The proliferation of creature features starring hybrid animals like the Piranhaconda, Sharktopus and Dinocroc have overshadowed the more traditional nature gone wild horror movie. “Black Water: Abyss,” a new angry, apex predator movie now on VOD, brings back the old school when animals attack genre and throws in some spelunking for good measure.
The action begins when a group of friends, Eric (Luke Mitchell), Jen (Jessica McNamee), Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) and Yolanda (Amali Golden), cast aside any fear of claustrophobia to descend into a partially submerged cave system in remote Northern Australia. They’ve been led there by Cash (Anthony J. Sharpe), who discovered the caves while on a search party for a Japanese couple who went missing in the area. What they don’t know is that the couple didn’t just disappear… they were eaten. When a tropical storm hits, flooding the caves, they are trapped with a herd of very hungry, very aggressive crocodiles
Cue the frenzied chomping.
Director Andrew Traucki has made something of a specialty of this genre, making giant shark movies like “The Reef” and “The Jungle” about a n Indonesian "forest demon." He’s good with jump scares, the primal stuff like fear of the dark and claustrophobia and the mix of CGI and actual crocodile footage, but he’s let down here by a script that reduces his characters to sushi for hungry crocodiles and nothing more. It’s hard to create character arcs when the most interesting thing anyone says is, “We’re never going to get out of here, are we?”
“Black Water: Abyss” is a sequel to 2007’s “Abyss,” and while it has the occasional jolt and a breathless last few minutes, its lack of interesting characters will not croc your world.