A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout is a TV special part of the twelfth season of SpongeBob SquarePants and sees a few of the characters journey above sea level for some wild adventures on dry land. Viewers familiar with SpongeBob's unique brand of entertainment won't be surprised by the bathroom humor (body odor that causes a character to melt into goo, for instance), the often-frenetic pace and loud acoustics of the story, or the absurdist nature of the plot. This special does an exceptional job blending media formats, inserting the animated characters in their mobile aquarium vehicle into the live-action happenings in the human world and showing them interact. While there's not a lot of educational value to be gleaned from this story, it's fun to watch, even for SpongeBob nonfans.
What's the story?
SPONGEBOB'S BIG BIRTHDAY BLOWOUT opens with all of Bikini Bottom busily planning a surprise party for SpongeBob's (voiced by Tom Kenny) big day, while Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) is tasked with keeping his foamy friend occupied and away from the action. The two hop aboard a tour bus that takes them out of the sea and up to Surface Land, where they scurry about the beach and surrounding areas in a 10-gallon fish tank on wheels. As they take in the sights, they weather various calamities that befall them and meet some unfamiliar surface creatures, including a local restaurant with remarkable similarities to the Krusty Krab eatery and staff, and a pet store where their journey nearly takes a drastic turn.
Is it any good?
For SpongeBob fans, this birthday bash is an appropriate celebration of twelve seasons of the ocean's most famous angular resident. It's filled with absurdist humor, physical gags, gross-out moments, and quirky characters both under the sea and above ground. The show's mix of animation and live-action, which gets a lot of play during the characters' trip to Surface Land, is what really sells this story. Much hilarity ensues as their water-filled aquarium motors about across the beach (and past David Hasselhoff!), encounters a thirsty dog, gets emptied (and slimed) in a Patrick-induced accident, and nearly goes completely off the rails in the local "fish prison."
SpongeBob remains a fairly hard-lined love-it-or-leave-it TV pick, with fans hopelessly devoted to its creative, if slightly manic, humor, and others just not getting the shtick. SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout is surprisingly successful at bridging that gap -- at least for a short time -- with its unique mixed-media format that gives viewers a laugh-out-loud outsider's view of the human world as they follow the aquarium tour through town. It probably won't sway many SpongeBob nonfans, but it does make for a tolerable pick for watching with your kids if they're in the SpongeBob camp.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about SpongeBob's popularity. What accounts for the show's longevity and appeal to fans? Does it still stand out as unique among shows that are popular today? Did you like this special's mixed-media format?
How is friendship presented in this story? How do the characters show that they're friends? Are friends ever mean to each other in the story? Does conflict resolution on TV send an inaccurate message about similar experiences in the real world?
Does characterizing non-human objects and beings as having human abilities and feelings change your perspective of how you live and act? What kind of human behavior seems unusual when viewed through a lens like this SpongeBob production? Which human characters, if any, stand out for character strengths like kindness or selflessness?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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