Editor’s Notes: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is currently out in wide release.
I am not, generally speaking, a SpongeBob fan. Having said that, this movie is quite humorous and in many ways fresh and original. The primary parts of the trailer don’t happen until the end of the film, leaving most of it traditionally animated in the form of the show, but the idea is clever and the execution has the writers throwing everything they have at the story trying to make as many jokes as possible stick and most of them do.
It all sounds so kooky and indeed it is, but that’s where all the fun comes from.
The story, as partly narrated by the pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), is that an attempt to steel Mr. Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) secret formula for the Krabby Patty by his arch-rival Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) resulted in the disappearance of the formula. SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) was attempting to stop Plankton but the bottle containing the formula just vanishes. Krabs and everyone else blames Plankton but SpongeBob knows Plankton wasn’t to blame so he tries to rescue him and work with him to find the formula. Meanwhile, without any Krabby Patties, the entire community of Bikini Bottom falls into social chaos because they were what held the fabric of their society together. Plankton and SpongeBob build a time machine to go back and stop Plankton from taking the formula, thereby averting the societal apocalypse. This of course fails but they do discover that the formula was stolen by Burger Beard himself and they all, being SpongeBob, Plankton, Mr. Krabs, Squidward (Roger Bumpass), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and SpongeBob’s best friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) ascend to the surface (with the help of a magical dolphin named Bubbles, voiced by Matt Berry from the brilliant British TV program The IT Crowd, a watcher of sorts whom Plankton and SpongeBob befriend during their time traveling). There they are able to get super powers and fight with Burger Beard.
It all sounds so kooky and indeed it is, but that’s where all the fun comes from. Everything is so off the wall that it’s impossible not to get caught up in at least some of it. Director/actor/co-story developer Paul Tibbet along with writers Glen Berger and Jonathan Aiebel have developed a feature that works for kids and adults, though admittedly more for kids. They waste no time in getting the story going, but they do run into some pacing issues near the middle of the film when the gags start to repeat themselves.
The big fun is seeing SpongeBob and company on land and beefed up with superpowers and abs, but that is kind of spoiled by the fact that much of that final bit of the film is seen in the trailers, which sets a false expectation of the look of the film, detracts from the main story because you’re sitting there waiting for what you saw in the trailer to appear and it ruins the surprise and many of the good jokes from the last 20 minutes of the film because they’ve been seen for the past few months. It deflated the ending because it was known to be on the way. That aside, what isn’t in the trailers is equally funny as this group of non-heroes try to bring down a pirate who is kind of on the competency level of Captain Jack Sparrow, with lower ambitions (he wants to make money from his food truck that is shaped like, and is, a pirate ship…that is also a truck…like one of those WWII ducks that is a boat and a tank/truck).
Everyone approaches their roles with gusto (which is probably hard to do when many of the actors have been playing these characters for 16 years) and it all turns out to be a good time.
Another bit of fun is Banderas as Burger Beard. He’s obviously been doing kids movies for years, starting with Spy Kids back in 2001 and most notably as Puss in Boots in the Shrek franchise for the last 11 years, but here he gets to go full on over-the-top in full costumed get-up and just ham it up. He looks like he’s having a great time as Burger Beard, interacting with talking/singing seagulls (one voiced by the legendary Tim Conway) and then doing battle with the Bikini Bottom clan. He’s as at home in this kind of role as he is in anything else he’s done from Desperado to The Skin I Live In. He’s great fun mainly because he’s not afraid to look and act ridiculous.
Something else struck me while watching this film. I wasn’t looking for any deep social commentary when walking into the picture, but I ended up getting a little. Sure, there is the message to kids about teamwork and how it helps everybody (there’s even a song about it while SpongeBob is trying to explain what teamwork even is to Plankton) but there’s something else here. When the Krabby Patties run out and within minutes the entire culture is abandoned for a Mad Max style existence (Mr. Krabs even says to Squidward “I hope you like leather”), I realized something similar could happen if some major/minor thing (something we deem of great import but really doesn’t ultimately matter) were to cease suddenly, like perhaps the internet. Social order would break down and kids that have always known the internet wouldn’t know how to do anything (I’ll leave the argument of whether or not they know how to do anything with the internet for another time) and those of us old enough to remember pre-internet days would have difficulty remembering how to do things without it. I don’t know if we’d instantaneously don leather and rove in packs hunting down those responsible for the cessation of the internet, but it’s possible.
I’m not saying The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is destined to become a classic, nor do I think I’ll be praising it at the end of the year as I and many others did for The Lego Movie that came out around this time last year, but it is entertaining despite it dragging in parts. Everyone approaches their roles with gusto (which is probably hard to do when many of the actors have been playing these characters for 16 years) and it all turns out to be a good time.
I’m not saying The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is destined to become a classic, nor do I think I’ll be praising it at the end of the year as I and many others did for The Lego Movie that came out around this time last year, but it is entertaining despite it dragging in parts.