Review: Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years By Luke Brookshier
Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years is the first SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off series to arrive on Paramount+, showing SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) as a ten year old in a strange underwater sleepaway camp called Kamp Koral. Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) is a bunkmate, and Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) is still floating around in her diving suit. Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) is around causing trouble. And Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) is a camp counselor and Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) is the camp director (er, kamp director).
Opening Shot: A young SpongeBob SquarePants running through a field of kelp, trying to catch jellyfish with a net. Then he leaps up and catches one, celebrating is first ever catch. Then he wakes up.
The Gist: In the first episode, SpongeBob dreams of the start of jellyfish-catching season and snagging his first-ever jellyfish. He’s so eager that he often busts out of his pants and we just see his square briefs. He chases after jellyfish, but just can’t catch up to one; he even chases a jelly around camp as he’s talking to mom on a phone with an extremely long cord.
To boost his confidence, Sandy and Patrick convince Squidward to put a helmet on and pose as a jellyfish that SpongeBob. But when a massive fish swallows Squidward, SpongeBob and friends have to rescue him.
Our Take: A group of writers from the original SpongeBob series, created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, developed this CGI-based spinoff, and the personality of the original is in place. That’s to say: If you loved SpongeBob the elder, you’ll likely like his younger version in Kamp Koral. Of course, since SpongeBob is younger, though, he’s definitely a bit more hyper and a bit more anxious than his older self.
If you were not a fan of the original show, well… there’s nothing here to make you want to watch this one. It’s still a very manic style, like the original. And, while the original had a visual style that matched the mania quite well, the visual style of Kamp Koral is much more smoothed-down and generic. The CGI graphics this show uses are colorful, don’t get us wrong. But it doesn’t convey the controlled chaos that the hand-drawn original did. Plus, it’s hard to determine whether the camp (er, kamp) is underwater or not, something that was pretty unmistakable on the original show.
Bringing in the original voices was helpful, as is the format of two stories per episode (the jellyfish episode is the only one of the group premiering on Paramount+ that only has one story). There are just way too many scene breaks and camera cuts — and too much SpongeBob anxiety — to make a 22-minute story work on a regular basis. If the writers throw us one every so often, that’s great. But otherwise, the show will just make parents want to double-down on their Lexapro dose by the end of the episode.
What Age Group Is This For?: The show is TV-Y7, and we think its fast-paced tempo is suitable for kids ages 6 and up.
Parting Shot: SpongeBob still hasn’t caught a jellyfish… or so he thinks. Unbeknown to him, jellies start coming out of his pores.
Sleeper Star: Not sure why, but we’ve always had a soft spot for Patrick Star. Maybe it’s because we’re unabashed fans of Bill Fagerbakke.