Tag Archives: Jeffrey Tambor

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Spongebob

Directors: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne
Writers: Stephen Hillenburg (television series SpongeBob SquarePants), Stephen Hillenburg (story)
Stars: Tom Kenny, Jeffrey Tambor, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Nickelodeon could have really made a hash of this beloved character and show and Hollywoodised the transfer from animated television show to cinema. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and everything you loved about the tv series remains in this 2004 release. Okay it attracted a few stars in Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson, who merely are supporting voice actors here to the established cast.

Why am I doing a Movie Review on “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”? Simple answer is my daughter asked me to do it and if I’m being honest there is a little self indulgence thrown in as I think the television series although mainly aimed at children cater for the child in most adults too. In the film, there’s no difference.

So the plot to the movie is SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) takes leave from the town of Bikini Bottom in order to track down King Neptune’s (Jeffrey Tambor) stolen crown with his trusty friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) at his side in this very funny adventure. To be honest the plot was always going to be simple and effective, more importantly was, could Stephen Hillenburg and Mark Osborne maintain a steady flow of humour for the duration of the film? Could they keep the audience who were used to a 23 minutes sketch interested long enough? The answer to both questions was yes and yes. 

Hillenburg and Osborne manage to have a gag almost every 20 seconds throughout. It’s something to be able to achieve this but to keep the story rolling merely forward without the humour taking you out of the plot is something that they appear to manage with ease. I always thought that 20 odd minute animated shows shouldn’t try this format as it’s difficult to maintain, I was certainly wrong here but perhaps not in the release of The Simpson’s Movie that came out a few years after this release my fears came true. The Simpson’s still is a very funny show but perhaps hit a blip when they decided to have an overblown plot that didn’t suit or match the TV show. This is why I think The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie succeeds. It doesn’t try too hard to appear as a movie, but more as 4 episodes of the same story continuing without a break. There is some terrific writing in here that is comedy at its best but also one of the saddest scenes you will experience in animation when Spongebob and Patrick are dehydrating their ways to certain death that precursors the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.

The cast have been very tight in the last 2 decades on the show and the latter movie releases. Here they have that same energy and I’m still trying to process Clancy Brown voicing the very funny Mr. Krabs. The same Clancy Brown who played a bad ass prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption a decade earlier. There is a line in the movie that cracks me up in his line delivery in the opening of his new restaurant “The Krusty Krab 2” in which he openly admits to the press that he loves money “Hello, I’m Mr. Krabs, and I like money” to which the reporter asks why he is opening a second Krusty Krab restaurant, Mr. Krabs simply replies “Money” This line of course will never do it any justice in a Movie Review as it’s down to Clancy Brown’s voice and Mr. Krabs demented face that have my daughter and I in stitches every time.

Tom Kenny as the ever youthful voice of Spongebob never loses that spritely zing and flair that comes with the ever energetic character that is Spongbob Squarepants. Those opening scenes of disbelief of not receiving an assumed promotion are some of the best voice work from Kenny. From ever optimist to depressed sponge in a matter of moments is funny and emotional at the same time. Kenny along with Fagerbakke are an amazing double act in Spongebob and Patrick and it’s both these actors who carry the film throughout. It is after all their adventure and the stakes couldn’t be higher in a life or death quest to retrieve The King’s Crown .

Overall, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a brilliant funny comedy that is aimed at the whole family and although the title and character name is assuming at times as a kids character I can guarantee all ages will enjoy this adventure. Hillenburg and Osborne done well not to fall into the trap of blowing their formula out of proportion and kept the story simple with the writing clever and layered. If you aren’t a fan or have never watched the television series it doesn’t matter. The film is a self contained joy and newer audiences will get a kick out of the film. Highly recommend.

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The Death of Stalin (2017) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin 

THE DEATH OF STALIN

Director: Armando Iannucci
Writers: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor 

The Movie “The Death of Stalin” is based on a French graphic novel and follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death. Writer and Director Armando Iannucci who I have been a massive fan of for almost 30 years doesn’t disappoint in his latest project.

Penned as a comedy you would be excused in thinking this is much darker than any comedy I know and you would be correct in feeling that way. “The Death of Stalin” is a “clever comedy” and I am not trying to sound pretentious in labelling the movie this. Iannucci has taken an interesting angle on a deadly serious situation and I don’t think I have laughed as much as I did for a long time.

Before I go any further though I have to state that all of the characters in this film are satirical versions of the actual people and add to the humour. Also all the cast are speaking with their own regional accents which makes this even funnier and unique. There is not a faux Russian accent amongst them. Armando Iannucci insisted on not having the characters speak with Russian accents, for two reasons: he thought it would take audiences out of the film, and he didn’t want the actors to worry about their accent when improvising.

The cast that assembled for this film is amazing and none more so than Steve Buscemi. Seriously  This guy still amazes me. Here he plays Nikita Khrushchev, in the real world he was a Soviet statesman who led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964. Buscemi’s take of this guy is so odd and amazing at the same time. He comes across as a bumbling idiot that is filled with paranoia towards his fellow cabinet members but to be fair they are all like that with each other. But Khrushchev here is a very clever but devious character. Buscemi’s delivery in most of his appearances on Film or TV are always delivered with that quick dead pan wit and here it is no different.

Simon Russell Beale as Lavrenti Beria is amazing to watch and is possibly the most cunning of the group. Very early on you get to know very quickly what this character is about and the lengths he will go to. One of the very first scenes is Beria going through a series of locks and keys hidden in the office of Stalin who eventually unlocks the secret vault to capture the files on his fellow cabinet members as leverage if discussions break down within their committee meeting on what to do next. He is doing all this as Stalin is lying on the ground in an unconscious state. Ruthless or what?

Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov is such a calming and funny presence compared to Russell Beale and Buscemi. Malenkov was a Soviet politician who succeeded Joseph Stalin as leader of the Soviet Union, holding this position from 1953 to 1955. Tambor’s version is strange and obscure at times and compared to the others comes across as too passive at times but this only adds to the humour of the character to me.

Another cast member who stood out for me was the no nonsense talking Field Marshal Zhukov played by Jason Isaacs. Isaacs although from Liverpool appears to have a Yorkshire accent in the film which I thought was genuine and funny. His delivery in every scene was hilarious and his one liners are what makes this film already very quotable. In reality Zhukov established good relationships with the other commanders-in-chief, US General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and French Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. Zhukov as a marshal of the Soviet Union was the most important Soviet military commander during World War II.

These four characters are who stood out for me but the cast is so enriched with talent I would be here all day going through each and everyone of them. Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Adrian McLoughlin, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse, Karl Johnson and Rupert Friend all have limited but memorable parts and only add more depth to the characters and relationships throughout the film.

I also love the way this film is shot and yes you can sense most of the scenes are improvised which adds to the chaos and people running around like “headless chickens” the film’s pacing is so frantic because of this and i think this style works for the situation. In January this year “The Death of Stalin” was banned in Russia two days before it was due to be released as one member of the Culture Ministry’s advisory board was quoted as saying, “The film desecrates our historical symbols” which is fair enough and to be honest when this movie came out I honestly thought this would be the case anyhow.

Overall “The Death of Stalin” I understand will not be everyone’s cup of tea. As previously mentioned, I enjoy Iannucci’s satirical wit and clever writing. The cast are amazing and it was great to see such strong performances from them. The subject matter shouldn’t deter your decision in viewing this as political satire is something that is not new and you can go far back as Mel Brooks’s 1967 film The Producers “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden is a fictional musical”. For me this was one of the most enjoyable comedy films of 2017 and I highly recommend it.