The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Posted by Joel Copling on February 6, 2015

I am perhaps not the right person to review this movie. Although Stephen Hillenburg's series about a porous sea sponge with square-shaped pants began around the time I would have been invested in such a show, I never quite took to its frantic slapstickery. Thus, the most significant exposure I've had to the franchise is the occasional, never truly amusing episode over the course of its nearly 16-year run and catching up with 2004's "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" (which surprised me with its goofy sense of humor) within the last 48 hours of this writing. Now we have "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," and it's more evident than ever that the adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants (voice of Tom Kenny) are probably an acquired taste.

This is the kind of movie for which the term "cute" was coined. Its 93 minutes pass without much hassle. It is harmless, basically, but also inconsistent--a source of amusement at its most anarchic but one of annoyance when an apparent plot and a villain are considered important ingredients. I mean, sure, the villain is a pirate and fast-food entrepreneur played by Antonio Banderas, and the plot is a subsequent variation on that of the previous feature film, in which the devious Plankton (voice of Mr. Lawrence) cooked up various schemes to steal the Krabby Pattie Secret Formula from SpongeBob's boss crab, Mr. Krabs (voice of Clancy Brown).

Something this genuinely goofy doesn't need such a thing. It's what dragged the first film away from genuine greatness as animated effort, though it still got by on the charms of its main characters--not only SpongeBob himself, but also the adorably dim-witted starfish Patrick (voice of Bill Fagerbakke) and the superbly indifferent Squidward (voice of Rodger Bumpass). The charms carry over here as Plankton is in the midst of his new plan to steal the Secret Formula. It mysteriously disappears and falls in the hands of Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), vaulting the underwater village of Bikini Bottom into an apocalyptic wasteland and SpongeBob and Plankton into a journey to prove both of their innocence in the matter of the missing Formula.

This also propels the movie into a third act of live-action antics (with Mike Mitchell directing these segments opposite animation director and series veteran Paul Tibbitt) that halt the charming wackiness of the thing in its tracks. The gimmick of CG representations of SpongeBob and Friends is a neat one in theory, but the execution is strange, the character designs when transformed into superheroes warping the experience of watching them do their thing (the less said about the transformation of Plankton into a Hulk-type character, the better). There is enough of the old goofiness that "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" goes down with ease, but it still ultimately replaces that spirit with mere franticness.

Film Information

Antonio Banderas (Burger Beard).

Featuring the voices of Tom Kenny (SpongeBob/Gary), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), Rodger Bumpass (Squidward/Squidasaurus Rex), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), and Mr. Lawrence (Plankton/Plankton Robot).

Directed by Paul Tibbitt, guest-directed by Mike Mitchell, and written by Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel, based on the series "SpongeBob SquarePants" created by Stephen Hillenburg.

Rated PG (mild action, rude humor).

93 minutes.

Released on February 6, 2015.