Happy Birthday, SpongeBob!
Overview (Spoilers Below)
It’s SpongeBob’s birthday and Sandy Cheeks and some of SpongeBob’s nearest and dearest want to throw him an amazing party. All Patrick has to do is distract his buddy by inviting him on a sightseeing tour. Patrick—as you probably know—is really dumb and almost fails, but succeeds in spite of himself.
And the episode could’ve ended right there. Except this tour was set to explore the surface world—the real, three-dimensional surface world—that our characters have never seen—if you don’t count the SpongeBob movies. There is a subplot where Sandy, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and the gang fight over the party’s décor aesthetics and wind up destroying SpongeBob’s house, but the real action takes place on the surface.
Starting at the beach, the water-filled tour bus visits a handful of interesting sites. They come across some familiar faces like David Hasselhoff (in full lifeguard attire), Kel Mitchell (from Kenan & Kel, plus a bunch of other Nickelodeon shows), and a slew of seemingly random stars who wish a fond “Happy Birthday” to the sponge of the hour.”
None of these celebrity cameos amount to much, except for Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future), who plays a dog-walker whose Labradoodle vivaciously pursues the tour bus on various occasions. Wilson’s story ends in a Harold Pinter/Zac Efron-esque role-reversal with Wilson taking on the role of the dog and the Labradoodle acting like the human, because SpongeBob Squarepants is an awkwardly absurd show.
But the best roles on the surface belong to Tom Kenney (Spongebob), Roger Bumpass (Squidward), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), and Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick) who play real-world versions of their cartoon counterparts. This plotline isn’t mind-blowing and doesn’t really integrate the animation and live-action very well. But seeing the actors speak and dress like their characters is an amusing enough novelty.
After SpongeBob returns to the depths of Bikini Bottom, everyone’s favorite aquatic sponge doesn’t seem to mind that his friends ruined his little pineapple house and is happy they all came by to celebrate with him. And then, in the closing seconds, Patchy the Pirate (SB’s number one fan) pulls a Se7en and offers his own detached head as a birthday present.
Stay weird, SpongeBob, stay weird.
SpongeBob has been on TV for a long time—twenty years as of this May. And while it has lost its initial energy and freshness (late-creator, Stephen Hillenburg originally wanted to end the series ages ago), it remains an entertaining program. And it continues to thread that perfect needle between young and/or goofy kids, and adults who like the “get high and watch the tube.”
The Sandy Cheeks plot was your basic SpongeBob fair, where a bunch of eccentric characters entered a small space and chaos soon followed. There were some unusual pairings, including Mr. Krabs and his arch-rival Plankton working in unison, and then against each other, while Plankton focused on his long-term goal of stealing the secret Krabby Patty recipe. There were a bunch of characters I didn’t recognize, having not seen the program in over a decade, but there were a few old-timey favorites including Spongebob’s parents, Karen the evil computer-wife, and Mrs. Puff, Bikini Bottom’s driving instructor.
The outside world was fast-paced, jarring, and what one might expect from such a hyperactive cartoon. The human characters—other than Tom Wilson and the voice cast—acted strange for the sake of strangeness and added little else. I don’t know why Kel would shoot baked beans at a crowd on the beach, or even why Patrick was so invested in those beans. It was equally strange to see office workers at a gorilla mask company wear gorilla masks in the boardroom, and I wondered why their sales projections didn’t show an uptick in or around October.
But let’s be real, the viewers tuned in to see the voice actors in action. With that in mind, it’s a wonder why they didn’t spend more time at the Trusty Slab as opposed to all the other random places on surface land. There is additional material with the voice actors on YouTube that I’d recommend to any super fans out there.
However, the one other interesting scene on the surface was when the tour bus gang rescued a ton of “imprisoned” fish from a pet store. Those fish looked way more lifelike than the ones from Bikini Bottom, so if you believe in the “Nuclear Bomb Theory,” you now have more credence to your argument. Was there some sort of preservationist message hidden in this brief scene? No, definitely not.
Anyway, here are a few interesting facts to end with:
- Roger Bumpass (Squidward) is married to Ben Stiller’s sister, Amy.
- Jill Talley (the voice of Karen Plankton, the evil computer) is married to Tom Kenny.
- The Wikipedia entry for “Sponge” makes absolutely no mention of SpongeBob Squarepants.