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"SpongeBob SquarePants 10 Happiest Moments": Sap Happy

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You know, I really hope SpongeBob isn’t ticklish, considering how hard Nickelodeon pinches the poor little guy as it squeezes each nickel out of him.

So this month brings SpongeBob SquarePants: 10 Happiest Moments to general DVD release after a year of being a Wal-Mart exclusive. There’s not much to say about it, except to run down the list of included episodes, and to note that it’s a terrific value if you haven’t got much SpongeBob in your DVD library, but will likely be redundant if you do.

I don’t know what criteria went into choosing the “happiest” moments, since several of the episodes, like “No Weenies Allowed” or “The Algae’s Always Greener,” don’t feature any real happiness, and some aren’t even about SpongeBob himself. But they are almost uniformly excellent and pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face. That’s enough.

The set opens with two landmarks. “Tea at the Treedome” introduced Sandy Cheeks, and it made her instantly winning. The story is best though, for the hilariously horrifying torture it puts SpongeBob through as he tries to survive inside Sandy’s waterless enclosure. It also features some genial nonsense as Patrick misinterprets Sandy’s need for “air” as a preference for “putting on airs,” and insists that all of SpongeBob’s problems can be solved if only he keeps his pinkie up. Meanwhile “Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy” introduced the two recurring superheroes, and you have no trouble seeing why the producers kept bringing them back.

Sandy also gets to shine in “Karate Choppers,” which has a lot of fun making her and SpongeBob go karate crazy. It’s a terrific illustration of how imaginative the show could be, as the artists invent ever-mounting mayhem and misunderstandings. She also has a bit part in “No Weenies Allowed,” though that one has a lot more fun with SpongeBob’s frantic need to escape the Weenie Hut and enter a tough-guy saloon. Squidward gets showcased in “Culture Shock,” where his talent show gets upstaged by SpongeBob’s janitorial act; “Graveyard Shift,” where he tries to spook SpongeBob during the Krusty Krab’s night shift; and especially “Just One Bite,” where he discovers (to his intense dismay) that he loves the taste of Krabby Patties.

Plankton gets his spotlight in “The Algae’s Always Greener,” when he uses one of his mad inventions to change places with Mr. Krabs and experience his nemesis’ life. Patrick doesn’t get a spotlight episode as such, but he shares co-star duties in “Roller Cowards” with SpongeBob when the two of them visit an amusement park and find lots of ways to avoid riding the terrifying new roller coaster. Mr. Krabs shows up in many of the episodes, and has a fun change of pace in “Algae,” but he doesn’t get a lot of attention. And it’s a pity that the ever-suffering Mrs. Puff isn’t on this disc. But then, everyone would have their own list of “best” SpongeBob episodes that they’d like to see here or on some other “best of” disc, so there is no use complaining that it doesn’t include “Boating School” or “Hall Monitor” or “Employee of the Month” or “Rock Bottom” or “Hooky” or … Well, you get the idea. But every episode on here is a winner, starting with the pilot (“Help Wanted”), which is included as the sole, nominal extra.

If you are a SpongeBob completist or are just a hard-core fan you probably already have all these episodes, but 10 Happiest Moments is a nice, filler-free set for casual fans who just want some good SpongeBob cartoons in their library. It can equally well serve as a minor but probably welcome stocking stuffer. The holidays are only a few months away, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a hint from the special “Christmas Who?” (also included on this set) and use it to fill out a bundle of light entertainment to set under the tree.