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Western Animation / The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

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Patrick: This is gonna be like... a buddy movie!
SpongeBob: Oh, I love your sense of irony, Patrick.
[Cue Patrick ironing a sweater]
Patrick: Thank you, haha. I love my sense of ironing, too.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a CGI-animated comedy movie, and the third movie based on the series SpongeBob SquarePants. It is the first movie in the SpongeBob series to be entirely CGI-animated (unlike the series itself and the prior two movies which utilized primarily traditional 2D animation). Following this movie, Nickelodeon launched a CGI spin-off named Kamp Koral where SpongeBob is still the main character but with a younger voice.

SpongeBob's pet snail Gary is "snailnapped" by Poseidon, so he has to journey to Atlantic City with his best friend Patrick in tow to get him back. The movie also tells the story of how SpongeBob and Gary first met.

This movie was originally scheduled to release in the summer of 2020, but as with a lot of film and TV productions, the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic put a stop to that, and was released to streaming on Paramount+ (formerly named CBS All Access prior to its relaunch) in the US on March 4th, 2021, although it was released exclusively in Canadian theatres very briefly on August 14, 2020. On November 5, 2020, it was made available to watch on Netflix internationally, and is considered a "Netflix Original" film in most regions.

Previews: Trailer, Super Bowl TV spot.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: After years and years of trying, Plankton finally succeeds in acquiring the Krabby Patty formula roughly halfway through the movie. The consequences of this are never shown and it is never brought up again.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the TV series, SpongeBob knew Patrick since they were babies, met Squidward when he first moved into the neighborhood, Mr. Krabs when applying for a job, Sandy when she was fighting against a clam, and Mrs. Puff when she first opened her boating school, and found Gary in a pound. In this film, he met them all in Camp Coral when he was a kid.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Otto, Sandy's robot. But it’s not evil, it's more like jerkassy, Artificial Stupidity and sometimes Otto does what the protagonists command a little bit too fast.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: SpongeBob to Poseidon, "I'm sure you would understand if you had friends like these."
  • Art-Shifted Sequel: A weird variation. While the first two movies were primarily 2D-animated by Rough Draft Studios (though the first sequel had a CG-animated climax), this film is almost completely animated with CG animation done by Mikros Image but retains the 2D style on backgrounds and set-pieces, with the CGI characters standing out more by way of looking more 3D.
  • As Himself: Snoop Dogg of all people appears in this film, and plays himself in live-action form.
  • Ascended Extra: After having minor appearances in the previous two films, Gary becomes a Living MacGuffin here.
  • Assumed Win: At the Camp Coral talent show in the flashback, Squidward was more than ready to take the Campy Award before Mrs. Puff gave it to SpongeBob and Patrick.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: When SpongeBob and Patrick arrive at Atlantic City, Sage warns them not to lose focus on the mission at hand, to which SpongeBob highly doubts they will. Moments later, both their eyes glaze over at the sight of all the glittering lights and food vendors selling ice cream, cotton candy, and churros.
  • Bait-and-Switch Accusation:
SpongeBob: [barges into the Krusty Krab kitchen just as Plankton got the formula] I knew it!
[Plankton gets scared and falls from the grill]
SpongeBob: I knew I left my keys in here. Silly me!
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Poseidon overworks his chancellor and doesn't really appreciate him whatsoever.
  • Big Bad: Poseidon, who is behind Gary's disappearance.
  • Big Good: Sage, who is smarter and wiser than SpongeBob and Patrick and works to help them recoup Gary.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The main characters all manage to hide from the anchovy guards inside a suit of armor.
  • Buddy Picture: Patrick helps SpongeBob track down Gary because "Friends don't let friends go on dangerous quests alone!" Patrick also lampshades this trope at the end of the trailer (see the quote at the top of the page).
  • The Bus Came Back: Literally. The Patty Wagon from the first movie returns, but SpongeBob and Patrick are using a generic boatmobile instead. Rather, Sandy is driving it (taking Krabs, Plankton and Squidward with her). The Patty Wagon gets redesigned to resemble a submarine sandwich and can go at hyper speed.
  • Cardboard Prison: Poseidon's dungeon. After getting angry with SpongeBob, Patrick opens the door to their cell and walks out so he can stay in another cell.
  • Cheerful Child: SpongeBob is shown to have been as exuberant as a little boy as he is today as the keety manchild.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The robot body Plankton put SpongeBob's brain in from the episode "Welcome to the Chum Bucket", and the robot customer from the episode "Plankton's Army" can be seen lying in the background of Plankton's lab.
      • Similarly, pieces of the Mr. Krabs robot from Imitation Krabs can be seen lying next to the Chum Bucket's dumpster.
    • In the first movie, the gas station employees joked that the Patty Wagon must run on mustard and ketchup. This movie proves that this really is the case when Sandy drives it.
    • Some of the pictures on Plankton's "Wall of Failure" depict schemes from specific episodes of the show. One even shows a fish wearing one of the mind-controlling bucket helmets from the first movie.
    • When Sandy barges into the Krusty Krab, demanding to know where SpongeBob is, Squidward and Mr. Krabs visibly panic. They both remember all too well what happened the last time Sandy got worked up about SpongeBob going missing.
    • SpongeBob brings home a lot of snails again. This happened previously in the season 9 episode "Sanctuary!".
  • The Dead Can Dance: The song that introduces El Diablo has the zombies performing a number with Snoop Dogg rapping.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Lost City of Atlantic City.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Plankton shows his "wall of failures", pause and you'll notice that a lot of them are based on scenes from previous episodes.
  • Friendlessness Insult: An unintentional example occurs during the climax when SpongeBob accidentally implies that the tyrannical King Poseidon doesn't have friends while standing up to him. The king becomes defensive and confers with his chancellor who confirms that he indeed does not have friends.
  • Good-Times Montage: The opening of the movie features a montage of SpongeBob and Gary having fun. Additionally, the movie ends with another montage, this time showing everyone in Bikini Bottom with their own snails after they have been saved from Poseidon, set to a cover of "Take On Me."
  • Jerkass Gods: King Poseidon is unconcerned with running his ocean kingdom and more preoccupied in preserving his good looks, being entertained, and punishing anyone that disrupts either.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Squidward stands up for SpongeBob, and says that, despite him being "super-freaking-annoying," he's Squidward's friend.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Patrick asks why is Atlantic City even called a lost city if it's exuberantly high-profile and filled with tourist destinations à la Las Vegas consisting of casinos, hotels, entertainment shows and eye-catching foods.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Patrick says that the duo's adventure will be a buddy film, describing how they usually play out.
  • Left the Background Music On: While locked in the dungeon, a long ominous music sting is playing. It turns out to be Patrick playing an electronic keyboard.
  • Literal-Minded: When SpongeBob says how he loves Patrick's sense of irony, Patrick is shown ironing a piece of clothing, this being Patrick, unsurprisingly.
  • Magic Feather: The Challenge Coin is stated to be this, as Sage explains that it was meant to help SpongeBob find the courage he had inside him all along.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Plankton joins the quest to save SpongeBob merely because he finds it too easy to get the Krusty Krab and inherit its secret recipes and riches.
  • Mythology Gag: In one scene at Atlantic City, Patrick thinks '7' starts with an 'L'. In the show's episode "Party Pooper Pants", the opposite happens.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: In the flashback at Camp Coral, SpongeBob was the one who encouraged Sandy to become a scientist.
  • Never My Fault: After learning that Patrick gambled away their challenge coin, SpongeBob blames him for everything that happened even after learning that it was him who encouraged Patrick to do so. Patrick is quick to call him out on this.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In their shared dream/vision, SpongeBob and Patrick are given the challenge of putting the souls of cowboy pirate zombies to rest.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: When Plankton asks the sad Mr. Krabs to hand over the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, he does so with no hesitation, causing Plankton to become angry that he's just giving up. As Krabs explains, nothing makes sense without SpongeBob around. This prompts Plankton to go with and assist him and the others later on when they travel to Atlantic City.
  • Ocular Gushers: Occurs any time someone cries.
  • Off with His Head!: Poisedon sentences SpongeBob and Patrick to the guillotine for trying to take away Gary.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Squidward hates SpongeBob and has even wished for his death multiple times ("Broken Alarm", "Gary's Got Legs"), but when SpongeBob is about to be executed by Poseidon, even Squidward goes up to defend him. In SpongeBob's absence, Mr. Krabs is so depressed that he gives up the secret formula, saying that even having the formula doesn't make sense anymore without him.
  • Overly-Long Gag: SpongeBob and Patrick greeting each other from their houses: "GOOD MORNING, PATRICK!!" "GOOD MORNING SPONGEBOB!!!"
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Sandy, while speaking in defence of SpongeBob at the trial, begs with Poseidon not to kill him. The audience is moved by this.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: While describing the premise of a Buddy Picture, Patrick also lampshades this trope. This is followed by SpongeBob and Patrick having an argument for no reason before resuming their journey like nothing happened, just because it's what you do in a buddy comedy. It's later played straight in the third act when the two are locked in Poseidon's dungeon and realize they lost the coin Sage gave them.
    Patrick: We're two buddies setting out with a common goal. We'll argue about something dumb, fight and breakup, only to come back when we realize neither could do it without the other. It's simple yet magical.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: This serves as the backdoor pilot for Kamp Koral.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: While locked in Poseidon's dungeon, SpongeBob and Patrick find that they have lost the challenge coin. SpongeBob recalls that Patrick gambled it away, while Patrick says that SpongeBob encouraged him to do so. It's never revealed which story turned out to be correct.
  • Reflective Eyes: When SpongeBob comes back to the pineapple after not finding Gary anywhere and looks at a picture of himself and Gary at Camp Coral, the picture reflects into his teary eyes.
  • Retcon: The movie shows that SpongeBob first met Gary, Sandy, Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs at Camp Coral in his childhood. In the series episode "Treats!" however, SpongeBob says he got Gary from a pound, and he was the same age as he appears now; he met Sandy in "Tea at the Treedome"; it was shown in "The Secret Box" that he's known Patrick since they were babies; and "Truth or Square" showed SpongeBob meeting Squidward when he moved into the neighborhood as an adult. Additionally it is shown that SpongeBob had known Mrs. Puff since he was a child, though the episode "Doing Time" shows that SpongeBob met Mrs. Puff when she opened her boating school.
  • Reverse Telescopic Vision: In the poster, SpongeBob and Patrick are looking through binoculars. Patrick, naturally, is holding his backwards.
  • Ruder and Cruder: This movie actually features the characters saying mild swear words (SpongeBob clearly says the word "crappy" twice instead of "crabby", while Squidward says "freaking" at one point), and to add up, they weren't censored by dolphin chirps.
  • Say My Name: "GARY!!"
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
    Patrick: Tartar sauce! What's the next best thing to courage?
    SpongeBob: Resolve?...
    Patrick: No.
    SpongeBob: Fortitude?
    Patrick: Uh-uh.
    SpongeBob: Commitment?
    Patrick: Nope.
    SpongeBob: Wherewithal?
    Patrick: Mh-hm.
    SpongeBob: Bravery?
    Patrick: No.
    SpongeBob: Valor?
    Patrick: What?
    SpongeBob: Grit?
    Patrick: No.
    SpongeBob: Heroism?
    Patrick: Uh-uh.
    SpongeBob: Gallantry?
    Patrick: Eh...
    SpongeBob: Moxie.
  • Shifted to CGI: The first two movies were traditionally animated, with the second film making the characters CGI during the surface scenes. This film, however, is fully CGI.
  • Ship Tease: When Sandy speaks in SpongeBob's defence at the trial, she sounds like she’s about to cry. Upon concluding her statement, with a plea not to kill him, she and SpongeBob hold hands and she has her arm around him.
  • Shout-Out: Atlantic City is heavily based on Las Vegas, Nevada.
    • While the zombies are dancing to Snoop Dog's musical number, SpongeBob and Patrick briefly dance like the zombies in Michael Jackson's Thriller.
    • While in Poseidon's palace, SpongeBob and Patrick crash into the Blue Fin Group, a parody of the Blue Man Group.
    • When Squidward tries to walk in the armor, he performs a spider-walk from The Exorcist.
  • Smart Ball: After Gary goes missing, Patrick tells SpongeBob he should be looking for clues to where Gary could've gone instead of sitting down sulking.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: SpongeBob and Patrick give Squidward their Campy Award after he failed at clarinet playing, saying that there was a "big mistake" and Squidward actually won.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: SpongeBob has this when he is locked in Poseidon's dungeon after failing to rescue Gary.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer for the movie shown SpongeBob driving the boat mobile luring the viewers into thinking that SpongeBob will finally master boat driving and/or earn his license, but in the movie it's actually Sandy's robot Otto. SpongeBob never drives at all in the movie.
  • Tropey, Come Home: Once again, Gary goes missing and SpongeBob and Patrick have to search for him.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Atlantic City is the undersea equivalent of Las Vegas, as when SpongeBob and Patrick arrive there, they gamble, party, gorge on food and forget about Gary in the process, much to Sage's consternation.
  • Voice of the Legion: El Diablo uses it to emphasize something or get a point across.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: SpongeBob and Patrick wake up after a day of fun in Atlantic City. They're very confused and have no idea where to go, until Sage reminds them to find Gary. Turns out they're right outside Poseidon's door.
  • The Wild West: During their quest to find Gary, SpongeBob and Patrick are teleported here (or perhaps just dreamed it) with the ability to breathe air and have a standoff with El Diablo.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • The reason Sandy became a scientist: SpongeBob assured her that there's no reason she can't be one, and her dreams would come true if she tried hard enough.
    • SpongeBob tells this to Poseidon after finding out he has no friends after it turns out Poseidon has a 0% Approval Rating and that everyone sees him as a jerkass lazy king.


Video Example(s):


El Diablo's Theme

Gets one with Snoop Dogg and a bunch of dancing zombies expressing that he's a fearful Western shooter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainSong

Media sources: