The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water has a title so outrageously long that I couldn’t make some witty aside about it in the title of this post, so I reverted to Movie Tuesday instead. Fortunately, it’s worth the saying because the film is surprisingly fresh and enjoyable, and this from a creative team that’s been working on the same show for sixteen years!
The first thing that struck me as I set out to write this review is that it’s been over ten years since the last SpongeBob film was released. I was 12 at that time, theoretically too old for the show, but as evidenced previously on this blog, I’ve always had trouble letting go, and I’m not alone on the internet in feeling this way about SpongeBob, especially. Plus there’s much fun to be had when you’re older and watching these Nickelodeon cartoons – there’s some really clever humour hidden away for the discerning dirty joke enthusiast. Age certainly hasn’t stopped my Dad from being the biggest SpongeBob fan I know.
Anyway, I missed this new film at the cinema earlier this year, but it would seem it was for the best. My family, all SpongeBob aficionados, did see it and they assured me it’s better on the small screen. I suspect they’re probably right – SpongeBob is one of those shows that just doesn’t make an effective transition to the big screen – there’s not enough spectacle for the larger scale. Instead, lengthening the format makes it akin to a really long, but better plotted, TV episode, and so what better way to watch it than at home with loved ones?
Sponge Out Of Water sees SpongeBob team up with Plankton in order to prove the latter’s innocence after the Krabby Patty Secret Formula is stolen from the vault in the Krusty Krab. With no recipe and no spare patties on hand, Bikini Bottom descends into Mad Max-style post-apocalyptia, the town’s hunger for the addictive Krabby Patty going unsatisfied. SpongeBob and Plankton must track down the formula, and when they discover it is in the hands of dastardly pirate and food truck owner, Burgerbeard, they must seek the help of Mr Krabs, Squidward, Patrick, Sandy, and Bubbles the Time Travelling Dolphin to become superheroes and save the day, and prevent Bikini Bottom from becoming Dirty Bottom.
Straight off the bat, it’s clear that Sponge Out Of Water is trying to draw more material from the show’s established universe. The original film from 2005 was bent on expanding the universe, with new characters and new voice actors, and with a focus mainly on SpongeBob and Patrick only. This time, wisely, the focus is more on the wider ensemble, with Mr Krabs, Squidward, and Sandy all getting far more lines and screen time than in the first film. SpongeBob and Plankton carry the piece but we don’t get tired of them because the other characters are actually available in this film to do things, unlike in the first one where they were either frozen or mind-controlled. You also notice that there are more in-jokes and cameos, and wink-at-the-audience “educational” songs for long-term fans of the show, with appearances from “My legs,” and the whiny moronic fish, Sandals, being just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an increase in slapstick and the expected stupid noises on the first film as well, which is fun.
To watch the trailer is to be totally lied to regarding what this film is about. The trailer glosses over everything I covered above, instead focusing on the lead ensemble becoming three dimensional superheroes out of water and battling Burgerbeard for service industry supremacy. This doesn’t happen until the final 25 minutes or so, and to be honest I preferred much of what happened before the transformation. The 3D rendering is cool, and with a nice texture, but ultimately it feels a little unnecessary. The film has a lot more to it, including a good heart, and a time travel subplot featuring a hilarious voice acting cameo for Bubbles the Dolphin that had me in hysterics. We rewound it a lot. To be honest, though, it does flounder a little in the middle (pun, but also truth). Ever present in the background is Antonio Banderas as Burgerbeard, and he is necessarily hammy as heck. I initially raised my eyebrows at the news of his casting, but he’s actually pretty funny in his role as washed up food truck proprietor. For me, though, the best bits were of course our animated friends.
If you’ve ever seen SpongeBob and liked it, this film is for you. It proves that so many years (75% of my entire life) after it first showed on TV that, despite some miles on the clock, he who lives in a pineapple under the sea still has a great many laughs left to give. It was a really enjoyable film, and does a great and hilarious legacy proud.