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KAMP KORAL Is Enjoyable, But …

Paramount+

KAMP KORAL Is Enjoyable, But …

By Movieguide® Contributor

For the past two decades, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS has been the monetary life support of Nickelodeon. The network has further squeezed the yellow fellow for all his worth. KAMP KORAL: SPONGEBOB’S UNDER-YEARS is a 2021 slapstick comedy that premiered on Paramount+. Set during his grade school years, SpongeBob and his friends attend a summer camp. Team SpongeBob participates in wacky activities and absurd situations. KAMP KORAL is a prequel / spin-off to the mainline SPONGEBOB series.

KAMP KORAL is a morally appropriate, yet ultimately safe entry in the yellow pants saga. The 3-D animation is inventive, the characters retain their colorful personalities, and the absurdist humor is on point. For new viewers, KAMP KORAL is a suitable starting place. However, for longtime SPONGEBOB fans, the TV-Y7 prequel struggles to distinguish itself from its beloved 2-D predecessor. Movieguide® recommends caution for children.

The show focuses on SpongeBob and friends catching jellyfish, building campfires, and swimming in the lake. KAMP KORAL introduces younger versions of the original cast. SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy share a cabin together with their camp counselor Squidward. The camp’s director is the money-stingy Eugene Krabs. The camp’s food master is Plankton, who has his eyes on conquering the world.

KAMP KORAL keeps its characters consistent with retro SPONGEBOB. They provide “larger than life” personalities and great comedic performances. The show makes the wise decision to reuse the cast from the original series. The returning voice actors provide a “prepubescent” treatment, and do their characters justice. The voice acting is as rock solid as the animation.

The most apparent feature of KAMP KORAL is its visuals. Unlike classic SPONGEBOB, which relied on a hand-drawn style, KAMP KORAL immerses itself into the third dimension. The 3-D character models are cute, dynamic, and provide many zany expressions. The animation is snappy and makes full use of SPONGEBOB’s more surrealist elements. The only blemish to KAMP KORAL’s presentation is the lifeless sets. The exterior environments are sterile and devoid of detail. In a franchise known for memorable visuals, the set dressing is a missed opportunity.

In terms of worldview, KAMP KORAL has shades of Christian virtues. SpongeBob and his close friends value friendship, teamwork, and persisting through insurmountable obstacles. Cynical characters such as Mr. Krabs and Plankton exhibit selfish behavior, but their devilish plans usually backfire in spectacular fashion. KAMP KORAL contains the basic lessons like “friendship is the key to everything.” The show’s moral ambivalence adds to the sense of surrealistic comedy.

The show caters to two audiences: new viewers and long time fans of classic SPONGEBOB. For fresh fans, KAMP KORAL works as a solid entry point. The eccentric cast and varied slapstick humor are appealing. However, in the context of the larger SPONGEBOB franchise, KAMP KORAL clings to the past to its own detriment.

In the middle of season one, KAMP KORAL shoves in an unnecessary time travel twist. Sandy is in contact with her adult self from the future. Adult Sandy orders her younger self to keep the Bikini Bottom timeline in shape. If Kid SpongeBob deviates from the main timeline, the events of the original show will cease to exist. KAMP KORAL confirms that SpongeBob first met Sandy and Patrick when they were kids. This contradicts the first episode of classic SPONGEBOB, where Squarepants meets Sandy in adulthood. KAMP KORAL’s anchor to the past ruptures the franchise’s already weak continuity.

Another limitation to KAMP KORAL is its identity crisis. The show shares the same cast and brand of offbeat humor of its parent series. Other than the 3=D presentation and younger aged characters, an episode of KAMP KORAL is written no differently than modern SPONGEBOB. Team SpongeBob faces a camp-related obstacle and experiences numerous surrealistic gags.

The only new additions are the camp-centric stories and original characters. A few episodes focus on Team SpongeBob causing chaos in the wilderness or conquering camp-related competitions. The newest characters are Nobby and Narlene, a chaotic brother and sister duo who frequently pranks the camp. The two narwhals add much needed spice to the show, but they are not enough to alleviate the lack of innovation.

In conclusion, KAMP KORAL is competently written, but lives in the shadow of its much beloved predecessor. The absurdist humor is tight, the 3D animation is charming, and the expressive cast will make anyone smile. It is morally ambivalent, but perfectly suitable for TV-Y7 folks. The series’ colorful presentation will appeal to new fans. However, for viewers who grew up with retro SPONGEBOB, the lack of innovation leaves much to be desired. Movieguide® recommends caution for children.