The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:



All Wet on Dry Land

 93 Minutes
Rated: PG
Directed by: Paul Tibbitt
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny
SpongeBob Movie

Quick question. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you know the answer to that, and, moreover, immediately get the melody of a certain sea shanty in your head, then, congratulations, you’re a member of the right audience for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. If you’re not and you still wind up roped into seeing it in the company of a group of pre-schoolers, don’t despair; you still might enjoy it.


SpongeBob Square Pants has been a staple of children’s television for over 15 years now, and Sponge Out of Water is the second attempt at expanding the TV show to the big screen. The filmmakers didn’t want to merely give viewers young or old a longer version of the TV show (whose typical segments run about ten minutes), they decided to take the show to a whole new level, the real world. Unfortunately, the result of bringing SpongeBob, Patrick, and the rest of the gang to dry land may leave audiences, especially adult audiences, high and dry.


Most of the first hour of the movie is set in SpongeBob’s beloved hometown of Bikini Bottom and will seem very familiar to longtime Bob-watchers. For those unfamiliar with the show, the writers, including director Paul Tibbitt and show creator Stephen Hillenburg, adopt a somewhat clever framing device. The story is told in the form of, well, a story read by the villainous pirate Burger Beard (a live action Antonio Banderas) to some computer-generated sea gulls. The narration allows the show to describe the various characters in greater detail than a traditional storyline might allow.


That first hour of Sponge Out of Water resembles an extended episode of the show. All the regulars are on hand: somewhat dense Bob (voiced by Tom Kenny), much denser Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Bob’s employer, the greedy Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), rival restaurant owner Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), and the rest. Plankton tries for the umpteenth time to steal the secret formula for Krabby Patties, the culinary delight served in enormous numbers at the Krusty Krab, Bob’s place of employment. Plankton doesn’t succeed, but somehow, in the midst of his attempted larceny, the formula disappears.


When faced with the loss of their food staple, mass panic strikes the denizens of Bikini Bottom, and the town is plunged into a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-styled chaos. The characters soon discover that that Burger Beard stole the formula, doing so by magical means; he can rewrite his storybook and change the history of Bikini Bottom (this is a cartoon about a talking sponge, so don’t expect perfect logic). The theft is part of Burger Beard’s grand scheme to turn his pirate ship into a seaside food truck and sell Krabby Patties at ridiculously inflated prices to hungry vacationers. So, SpongeBob, Patrick, Krabs, and some of the others head into our world to retrieve the formula, and when they do, the look and the feel of the movie change tremendously.


That first hour of the movie is drawn in the same traditional animation style as is the television show, with extremely bright colors and fairly simple visuals. While it may seem simplistic, it naturally lends itself to the type of exaggeration that adds to the show’s humor. In addition, there are some positively surreal visuals, such as those that show up when SpongeBob and Plankton travel in time or go into outer space. The previous sentence isn’t a misprint; the movie features both time and interplanetary travel (don’t ask for a plot explanation). However, when the action heads to the surface, the movie doesn’t become another Who Framed Roger Rabbit; instead, thanks to modern computer technology, SpongeBob and pals are transformed into computer-animated versions of themselves. Bad mistake.


The radical shift in perspective is jarring to the eye, and viewers see SpongeBob and his friends, not as cartoons come to life but, rather, more like stuffed toy versions (or worse, Macy’s balloon versions) of themselves, and not particularly good ones at that. The effect becomes even worse when the group gains superpowers (again, don’t ask), and they look like really bad stuffed toy versions of fifth rate comic book characters. At about the same time as the film becomes unappealing visually, its sense of humor dries up as well. Instead, of the many types of bizarre jokes contained in the rapidly paced first hour, there’s only one joke… that of animated characters coming into the real world and doing battle with an already cartoonish live-action villain in action sequences that resemble other live-action Nickelodeon shows.


Of course, there’s plenty of action in that last half hour, but it’s the sort of 3D slapstick that parents come to hate in movies of this nature. There’s an extended chase and an even more extended silly combat scene, all done with an eye to the 3D visuals, so that objects come hurtling at the screen every five seconds or so. Antonio Banderas is game, but a little of this goes a long way, and the live action sequence wears out its welcome quite quickly.


The disappointing finale of Sponge Out of Water doesn’t diminish the fun that’s to be had in the first hour. It’s filled with the same zany sight gags, puns, non-sequiturs, wry observations about the real world, and buffoonery that made the TV show popular with many adults, and it adds some trippy visuals that accompany the time travel segments. It makes little sense at times, but that’s part of the fun. The movie also wisely eschews name celebrity voices and instead uses the same actors who have played the roles on television for years. They have mastered their characters perfectly, characters that display surprising depth here.


SpongeBob remains highly popular with the younger generation who will doubtless be a large part of the audience (with most of the adults being their sometimes unwilling chaperones). Like last year’s Lego Movie, which arrived just about the same time, Sponge Out of Water is a lot cleverer than it looks (it would be hard to look less clever than a goofy two-toothed sponge). It’s clever enough to please adult audiences, especially in its zany first hour, but not clever enough to rise above the juvenile nonsense towards the end. The movie is a winner, but it’s taking on too much water when it finally reaches the closing credits.

Read other reviews of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water:


The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) on IMDb