Kelly Buetter lets a hyperactive, talking spongemonster teach her lessons about remaining young at heart in the face of adulthood in this week’s re-view.

We, the general populace of cartoon-watching adults, are absolutely spoiled. As I sit here, I am listening to the dulcet tones of moonshine-addled redneck squids while, on deck, I have cartoons about an adventurer and his shape-shifting dog, three kick-ass superheroines, and a show where two kids tricked the grim reaper into being their best friend forever. I could probably find a cartoon exploring every crazy, ridiculous, stupid premise that pops into my mind. But these cartoons would never have had a place in the world if the shows before them sucked. Thus, we must pay homage to them. The Simpsons, Looney Tunes, Ren & Stimpy, all giants in their respective fields. And then there was SpongeBob.

To tell you the whole story about The Sponge would take far too long, so instead I will tell you my personal experience. When the first episode of SpongeBob came out, I was nine years old. I had been an instant fan, looking for any excuse to use the Jacques Cousteau voice or sing SpongeBob’s version of the Krusty Krab Pizza jingle (you’d understand if you watched the show). So early on, there really was not all that much merchandise based around SpongeBob, so I had to find any and all posters and T-Shirts at Hot Topic. Around ’99, Hot Topic was still that kinda-scary store in the mall, and I was always waaay too embarrassed to be around so many *Gulp* teenagers (who would totally think I was a little kid and way too dorky and OMGPLEASEDON’THATEME) to go in. So, I had to have my mom do it. Yes, truly, there is no better way to feel cool then to make your bouffanted, dew-drop glassed, mom-jeans wearing mom to go in an purchase a shirt for you because you’re too much of a chicken. I could feel the leather jacket on my back and sunglasses on my face right then, boy howdy.

Fast forward to 2004, and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is coming out. I am currently in my freshman year of high school, and although it is cool to like cartoons, it is kinda not cool to still like obviously kids cartoons. Most of my friends had discovered anime at this point, or at most, watched most of the [adult swim] lineup. But I was certainly still curious, and so I went with my brother to a matinee. And I loved it. As someone who appreciates adult humor in cartoons, every single little nod, from SpongeBob and Patrick getting drunk on ice cream to The Hoff’s glorious appearance to Patrick in fishnets at the end, every joke was exactly what I was looking for.

And man, if watching this movie again isn’t like reliving 15 all over again.

The plot goes like this: SpongeBob, a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, wants to be promoted to manager of the new second location his boss, Mr. Krabs, is building. Instead, Mr. Krabs appoints Squidward, the dour co-worker and neighbor of SpongeBob, as manager. Meanwhile, Plankton, owner of the Chum Bucket and Mr. Krab’s rival, has a plot to steal the formula for Krabby Patties (and then to take over the world) by stealing King Neptune’s crown and framing Mr. Krabs for it. Crown stolen, they find out that it has been sold to someone in the dangerous Shell City, and SpongeBob and Patrick must steal it back.

Now, that’s what happens. But the biggest concern of the film itself, as is the biggest concern of most of the film’s viewers, is maturity. SpongeBob is considered to be immature (or a “goofy goober”). He has never been able to get his driver’s license, he isn’t thought of as mature enough to manage the Krusty Krab 2, and no one thinks that he will be able to face the perils involved in finding and returning Neptune’s crown. In fact, SpongeBob and Patrick start to lose faith in themselves halfway through, and Mindy (Neptune’s daughter) has to give them “magic moustaches” to make them official Men who will be able to finish the journey. So of course, they lose their moustaches and realize that the ability was in them all along, blah blah blah. We as kids (and kids-at-heart) are supposed to see that we can do anything, even if we like doing silly stuff. But my favorite thing this movie shows us is that there are absolutely no adults in this movie. Adult One, Mr. Krabs, is only looking out for himself and his money, instead of maturely concerning himself with the welfare of others. Adult Two, King Neptune, petulantly wields his power over anyone who dares to point out that he is going bald (played to a T by the himself-thinning Jeffrey Tambor). Even magical mermaid Mindy, future queen (played bafflingly by Scarlett Johansson), instead of going and getting the crown her ownself, with magic, instead makes SpongeBob and Patrick go for her. (To be fair, it is his movie, but one would hope a magic mermaid could do more, you know, magic.)

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie not only examines what it means to be someone treated as immature, but shows that no one is immune from immaturity.

Every person around my age (of the “Millenials” or “Gen Y” or Gen YOLO or WTFever) has been informed that they were too immature, too ridiculous, too self-obsessed. Like SpongeBob, we beg to be taken seriously and seen as worthy of attention. We struggle with school (and the debt that comes with it), we change industries, we move mountains. But still, those movers and shakers are seen as less-than. We haven’t achieved as much as our parents, we haven’t paid our dues.

What, however, of our parents? Hadn’t they heard the same thing? They are our gods, the people we look to for guidance and for approval. They teach us to be adults. But, like Mr. Krabs or King Neptune, they are fallible. Everyone remembers the first time they caught their parents failing, and they finally realized that they are not in fact the superheroes we imagined them to be, but the human beings they really are. But I must ask, what is the great thing about being an adult anyway? Who among us actually wants to be the grownup?

And on that note, who cares what our parents think? Who cares what all the rest of the grownups think? We are finally reaching the point of enlightenment that being an adult sucks, and so we should stop doing that. If we hate striving to impress our parents, we should stop doing that! If we hate listening to lite jazz and watching interpretive dance we should stop doing that!

I walked out of that theater in 2004, realizing that just because I was on the cusp of becoming a young adult did not mean I had to put away childish things. It just meant that to keep enjoying them, I had to be proud of them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go slip into my feety pajamas and watch cartoons. I hear Gravity Falls is rad as heck.

NOTES SELECTIONS

Movie poster near concessions, “The innermost limits of pure fun”

374 consecutive employee of the month awards (If this is a monthly award, SpongeBob has been working there 31 years)

Somehow an anthropomorphic peanut is WAY less creepy then Chuck E Cheese

Tom Kenny does every voice ever. We should start a show were Tom Kenny and Rob Paulsen just do every single voice

How is Mr. Krabs on fire?

Creepy laughter torture

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