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SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square (2009)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/10/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/12/2009

Has SpongeBob SquarePants really been around for ten years? I vaguely remember hearing about the show a decade ago, but as I'm an "adult" (if you knew me, you'd understand the need for quotation marks), I didn't pay attention to the show. But, soon our kids came along, and we found ourselves watching it as a family. The brightly colored animation got the attention of the little ones, the silliness entertained older kids, and the general bizarreness of the show made adults want to tune in. (I also remember going to see The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.) Ten years later, SpongeBob SquarePants has become so ubiquitous that I don't really notice it anymore. Could the tenth anniversary special DVD SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square be enough to regain my attention?

The main attraction of the SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square DVD is the nearly hour long special "Truth or Square". (The version included here is longer than the one which aired on Nickelodeon.) As with many of the SpongeBob specials, this one combines the usual animation with live-action footage which features actor Tom Kenny (who provides the voice for SpongeBob as Patchy the Pirate). The two storylines are typically fairly divergent, but here they mirror one another in an odd way. It's the Eleventy Seventh anniversary for the Krusty Krab, and ever-faithful employee SpongeBob SquarePants can barely contain his excitement. He arrives at the restaurant to find a long line outside. Inside, Mr. Krabs and Squidward are waiting for him. Together, they begin to plan for the celebration, but, of course, things go horribly wrong. In the "real world", Patchy, self-proclaimed president of the SpongeBob fan club, wants to hold a televised event to honor SpongeBob's tenth anniversary. He gains access to Nickelodeon Studios and begins to go through a rolodex, attempting to find celebrities to be on his special. Those celebrities include -- SPOILER WARNING: if you want to be surprised by those who appear, then jump down to the next paragraph) Rosario Dawson, Eddie Deezen, Triump the Insult Comic Dog, Lebron James, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Craig Ferguson, Robin Williams, and Pink. (Yes, Pink.)

This may sound like an odd statement, but for a SpongeBob episode, "Truth or Square" is very uneven. The animated section isn't very inspired. How many times have we seen SpongeBob and Squidward being forced to do something at the Krusty Krab where SpongeBob was ecstatic and Squidward was miserable? And, of course, Plankton is there, trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula. The only truly interesting thing here is a flashback to when SpongeBob's mother was pregnant with him...and it's kind of disturbing. As for the live-action piece, Patchy and his parrot are always good for a laugh, and there are some funny moments here. The best part comes when Patch talks to a certain dog. However, children may not appreciate this portion of the show at all. As the episode progressed, I would ask my children (who are pretty entertainment savvy for kids) who the guest stars were and they didn't recognize any of them. (Probably because two are from late-night TV!) One very positive note about "Truth or Square" is that the animation is slightly more detailed than the average episode and the colors are bolder. The audio is also excellent here. (More on that in a moment.)

The remainder of the SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square DVD is made up of four additional (regular length) episodes from the show.

-- "Porous Pockets" -- SpongeBob and Patrick come across a giant clam which appears to be choking. They help it and it spits out a giant pearl. The boys take the pearl to play volleyball with it (?!) and wind up selling it to a jewelry store owner and making literally truckloads of money. At first, they aren't sure what to do with the cash, but SpongeBob soon learns that having money makes him very popular. He is suddenly surrounded by a new group of friends, and Patrick is left behind. This sort of nouveau riche plot is fairly common for sitcoms, so it's interesting to see it done on a kid's show. SpongeBob's posse resemble the sort of entourage which seems to follow every celebrity these days. Kids may not get the nuances, but they can't escape the message that money shouldn't make you forget your friends.

-- "Choir Boys" -- Squidward is very excited about auditioning for the Bikini Bottom Men's Choir. However, he's not excited when SpongeBob decides to tag along, and he's even less enthused when SpongeBob wants to try out for the choir as well. This is one of those one-note (no pun intended) episodes where the same joke is hammered home over and over. The only interesting thing here is a bizarre, quasi religious scene where a group of jellyfish comes to SpongeBob's aid.

-- "Krusty Krushers" -- Not unlike "Choir Boys", this is another redundant episodes. For some reason, Mr, Krabs is at a wrestling match and learns that if anyone can defeat the tag-team champs, they'll win $1 million. He recruits SpogneBob and Patrick for the task, convincing them that it's all fake. Animated wrestling violence ensues. Has SpongeBob come so far that it has no original ideas? We've seen this all before and the only unique elements are the various ways in which the wrestlers mutilate SpongeBob and Patrick.

-- "The Card" -- SpongeBob learns that a new series of trading cards featuring his favorite heroes, Mermaidman and Barnacleboy, have been released. He goes to the comic book store and buys a pack. The store owner informs him that what he really wants is the rare hologram card. SpongeBob spends all of his money and doesn't find one. But, Patrick buys one pack, and there it is. We've seen this sort of story before, but as someone who once worked in a comic book store and saw this type of behavior first hand, I found this episode entertaining. But, is it still relevant? Do people still obsess over chase cards?

Reviewing these SpongeBob collections is never easy, as most fans will have these shows on their DVRs anyway. However, for this release, there are no real standout episodes. "Truth or Square" is worth watching for the celebrity cameos, but it's not worth multiple viewing. Perhaps after a decade, SpongeBob has finally lost its luster.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square features an odd new opening for the show on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. "Truth or Square" has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but the episode is not anamorphic. So, it looks sort of weird. As noted above, the episode looks great, as the colors are very dynamic and the animation, though 2-D, has a nice sense of depth to it. The box claims that the audio is Dolby Digital Stereo, but I was definitely hearing surround sound here. The stereo effects were very nicely done and made great use of off-screen sounds. The four other episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The images here are sharp and clear, showing no overt defects. The colors look good and the animation never stutters. The Dolby Digital stereo audio tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects, and the in-show music sounds especially good.

The SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square DVD contains two extras. "Behind-the-Scenes of the SpongeBob Opening" (6 minutes) looks at the new opening sequence which was created for the 10th anniversary. This piece contains comments from the artists who created the sequence and we see how the props were created and how the stop-motion animation was created. Oddly, there is no mention of the new song. "Karaoke Music Videos" offers videos for three songs, "We've Got Scurvy", "Campfire Song Song" and "F.U.N.". These can be viewed with or without vocals.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long