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Hooked to the Silver Screen: SpongeBob SquarePants: Atlantis Squarepantis (2007)

Ugh. I have found a movie that supplants Yellowbeard as the worst that David Bowie has ever been in, and his role in this one is not a cameo.

A few caveats: I think this was an extended episode of the SpongeBob television show as opposed to a theatrical release. It is movie-length but comes off more like a television show, so I’m not going to say it supplants Yellowbeard as one of the worst movies of all time. But Yellowbeard is better. Its funnier. It’s more interesting.

The only reason I’m bringing up Yellowbeard is because that movie was so bad. Coincidently, this one too has some very unfunny pirate jokes— there’s this whole live-action subplot about a pirate named Patchy who lives in Encino, California only to discover that the city has vanished. I have never before (and am unlikely ever to) see another episode of SpongeBob— this whole Patchy thing might have been a regular recurring feature of the show. On its own, it has nothing obviously to do with the cartoon part of the movie. It is also painfully unfunny. The Patchy concept might have seemed funny on paper— he’s an obviously fake pirate— like his fake beard is held up with clearly visible straps. He “drives” a boat-shaped car that has a non-working eight track player in traffic and keeps lamenting the loss of Encino. The audience for SpongeBob has to be very young children— maybe— maybe— Patchy appears funny to young children, or maybe his exaggerated style of speaking is funny to them. But young children wouldn’t know what and eight track is, and “Encino” wouldn’t be inherently funny to them (it isn’t to me, either, though at least as an adult I get the idea that its supposed to be discordant).

It’s not like the Patchy part of the movie just happens and is over, either. He keeps coming back, presumably after commercial breaks that were part of the original viewing experience but not mine (I had to purchase the movie). Since the sequence has little to do with the SpongeBob part, I’m guessing someone just decided to make a movie-length show and didn’t have enough material.

As for the main cartoon? SpongeBob and other anthropomorphic sea creatures travel to Atlantis and mayhem ensues. Along the way, there are several really bad songs. Not to get ahead of myself, but Bowie voices a major character in the movie, yet he is the only major character aside from Patchy that doesn’t sing. So, you have David Bowie, he’s agreed to play a significant voice-only role in this cartoon, it’s a musical, and you don’t have him sing? You can guess where I’m going to land in the “Good use of Bowie” section.

To the extent there’s a plot for the cartoon part, I’m guessing the purpose it serves is to set up the songs and gags that I’m really hoping are targeted to five-year olds, because they were so unfunny to me that I considered just turning it off. And I would have, too, except Bowie’s character was more or less in the whole thing…

Good use of Bowie?
OK, so I already mentioned that he doesn’t sing. I also already mentioned that the show, which is supposed to be relentlessly funny is devoid of humor. So, Bowie, too, was unfunny. But there’s something worse— Bowie distorts his own voice to the point that it is unrecognizable. So, we have the voice of David Bowie, sounding nothing at all like David Bowie. This is the worst use of David Bowie I have so far encountered. There’s nothing redeeming here. That his character gets a lot of screen time serves more as a cruel tease than satisfaction that my $7 purchase was money well-spent. The one nod I’ll give to Bowie’s use here is that his character was given different-colored eyes— the only hint outside the credits at the identity of the voice actor.

From time to time I have heard that SpongeBob is, in fact, funny. This particular show might be an aberration, so I went to Wikipedia to see how it was received. Turns out, Atlantis is disliked even by SpongeBob fans. Whew, so it’s not just me. Wikipedia quoted from a review touching on Bowie’s participation that referred to him as “the innovative rock star of yesteryear.” This might seem like an egregious low blow, however Bowie did the voice work in the middle of his decade-long absence from music. He seemed to the world to be retired, so the “yesteryear” comment wasn’t unfair. Bowie was raising his young daughter at the time, which might shed light on why he agreed to do this in the first place. Nonetheless, even if he had a good personal reason, couldn’t he have at least sung one of the bad songs to give those of us missing his voice something? Anything? It would be another six years before Bowie would triumphantly return to music with The Next Day, which is as far removed from SpongeBob as it gets.

The worst. See a Yellowbeard-Just a Gigolo double header before seeing this. I’d give it zero Bowies expect that I don’t want to go through the effort of creating another tier on the ranking summary page. But this is just no good.


And to see where it fits in the ranking summary, click HERE.

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