Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you don’t know the answer to that question by now, you’ve been living under a certain sea star’s rock. SpongeBob SquarePants has been a worldwide cultural phenomenon since his debut on Nickelodeon in 1999. In 2004, the sea creatures of Bikini Bottom went from TV screens to movie screens with “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”, in which Krusty Krab owner Mr. Krabs’ arch-rival, Plankton, finally stole the Krabby Patty formula. SpongeBob and best friend Patrick then went on an epic adventure (complete with an iconic David Hasselhoff cameo) to get back King Neptune’s crown and save the day.
A little more than 10 years later, the heroic sponge and co. have returned to theaters for “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”. It’s difficult to call this a sequel because it isn’t a direct, next chapter in this film series. Rather, this is simply a new installment in this very unique franchise, but one aimed at a fresh target audience.
Those who grew-up with SpongeBob in its prime, and were six or seven years old when the ’04 movie was released (including yours truly) have remained loyal fans of the show and have been anxious to finally get a second feature. “Sponge Out of Water” is an amusing, largely entertaining and memorable film. However, it’s clear director Paul Tibbitt (a staple of the TV series from the beginning) and screenwriters Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”) didn’t make this movie for the diehard fans of the show, who are certainly expecting non-stop laughs.
There are only about half a dozen great one-liners and a couple of laugh-out-loud exchanges and gags in the entire 90 minutes. In comparison, most of the 11-minute TV episodes include more than that. In the “funny” department, and only here, does “Sponge Out of Water” underwhelm. This is a very different film from the original, and in many ways a departure in scale and tone from the show, because it’s directly aimed at the new generation of fans – 6-12 year-olds – who will be thrilled to watch new, unpredictable escapades involving some of their favorite cartoon characters.
The storyline doesn’t stretch too-far outside the SpongeBob wheelhouse: Plankton still wants to get his hands (?) on that Secret Formula (again, forget about anything that happened in the original film), but when he tries to take it, literally, out of SpongeBob’s hands, it magically disappears. So Plankton and SpongeBob actually have to work together as a team (the film’s core theme) to try to get the formula back.
But, after a post-apocalyptic stretch in which Bikini Bottom is in a state of chaos because there are no Krabby Patties, and a time-travel sequence involving a very strange, talking dolphin, a Squidward-sauras and a wacky Pharrell Williams song, SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, Squidward and Plankton eventually make it into our world (as the trailers have revealed). The animation bravely changes from hand-drawn to CGI and these guys have to take down the pirate Burger Beard (played by Antonio Banderas), the evil mastermind behind all of this madness.
“Sponge Out of Water” is quite ambitious in mixing multiple genres and multiple styles of animation together into one crazy and wildly bizarre action film for kids. Young audience members will mostly remember the final 20 minutes, which involves an aquatic version of “The Avengers” and provides some fun moments.
In order to enjoy watching “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”, you’ve really just got to dive-in go with it, whether it’s Burger Beard talking to some sidekick, comic relief seagulls, the odd interactions with the human beach goers, and even a late-in-the-film rap battle. This may be one of the most creative movies released all year. Banderas said in a recent interview that everything about the world of SpongeBob is “surreal”, and that’s why the characters and the show have remained so popular for 16 years. Surreal perfectly describes this newest film, which I’m sure will not be the last. And as someone who’s been a fan for nearly my entire life, I will continue to watch the show and look forward to what’s coming next from the superstar sponge and his pals.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” gets a B+.
Running Time: 92 min.