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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Review)

Time to soak up a Spongbob review.

by Steve Pulaski

If you were born in the mid-to-late nineties, Spongebob Squarepants was likely top priority whenever you were fortunate enough to have TV time or the Television all to yourself. Even as I approach my twenties, and my taste in films and TV shows has gotten, what I'd like to believe, a lot more sophisticated, certain childhood shows are still towards the top of my priority list, and it's rare I don't go a week without watching a few episodes of shows like Arthur, The Berenstain Bears, or Spongebob Squarepants. Even as I sat in a dark room of about fifteen young children as the oldest person in that theater alone to watch The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, as soon as the film opens and I heard that infectious and memorable theme song to Spongebob, a cheery, indelible grin was stuck on my face and maintained itself for a good portion of the film.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Directed by Paul Tibbitt
Cast Tom Kenny, Antonio Banderas, Bill Fagerbakke
Release Date 6 February 2015
Steve's Grade: C

If nothing else, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water has the ability to shatter cynicism as soon as it begins, and carries through with a charming sense of silliness that we've all expected from its aquatic cast. I remember one of the first DVD collections of the show was called "Nautical Nonsense," and what a perfect summation of Spongebob to anyone who hasn't seen or heard of the program (if there are people).

The film opens with live-action footage of a pirate named Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas), who discovers a book that tells the story of Spongebob and his friends, all of whom live under the sea in Bikini Bottom, and that anything written in the book immediately becomes truth. We are plunged underwater to zero in on all the action, where we see the Krusty Krab, owned by Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) and the place of Spongebob's (voiced by Tom Kenny) employment, is thriving, while Sheldon J. Plankton's (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) restaurant across the street, Chum Bucket, is just as empty as it ever was. This results in a bitter war between the two restaurants, through the use of condiments and fast-food, which is surprisingly fun and sets the film's zealous, incredibly chaotic tone right away.

Plankton has always tried to get the secret formula for the Krusty Krab's delicacy known as the Krabby Patty, and just when he has the bottle that contains it, fighting Spongebob for it, the formula disappears right before their eyes. The disappearance of the Krabby Patty secret formula causes an entire breakdown of social order (why the sandwich can't be made even after the recipe is lost, despite Spongebob being employed at the restaurant for almost two decades is beyond me). As a result, Spongebob and Plankton form a team in order to try and work together to obtain the formula, while the entire town of Bikini Bottom embraces leather clothes and completely crumbles from the lack any kind of order in the community.

Discard any preconceived notion as to how random and senseless you assumed the show Spongebob Squarepants to be, as this film is much more random and scattershot than anything related to the character you've seen before. The film, for starters, is a cross between traditional animation and live-action combined with CGI, which, thankfully, is a gimmick that's underused, despite what the trailers convey (it only takes up about twenty minutes of a ninety-three minute runtime). The film, however, is one of the most psychedelic things I have witnessed in theaters; a complete visual hodgepodge and auditory cacophony of madness and randomness. Consider the scene where Spongebob and Plankton embrace time-traveling in order to obtain the formula and stumble into a plethora of different dimensions, one where they meet a live-action Dolphin named Bubbles, who is ordered to assure Jupiter and Saturn do not collide.

Even the songs in the film, unlike in the original, 2004 film, are built off entirely random verses and harmonies, and this is one of the biggest issues with The Spongebob Movie as a whole. Its lack of narrative cohesion and the fact that it purposefully muddles itself, often mistaking random senselessness for humor. The film is more reminiscent of those "hip" animated programs like Adventure Time and Regular Show, which, again, utilize the randomness that seems to amuse the best of this and the last generation over actual storytelling. Spongebob has never been an entirely linear cartoon, but earlier episodes stuck to some sort of plot and etched in jokes and gags that were related to the plot. This film often squanders that principle, and if something is funny, it's usually because of the idea that if you throw enough things at the wall, eventually something will stick.

Give The Spongebob Movie credit for completely embracing its silly idea, exhausting every possibility to be completely asinine in every way. I have a feeling young children will like it the best, but the reaction amongst tweens will be decidedly mixed. While the characters and their personalities haven't changed a great deal, this feels like a totally different Spongebob than what I grew up with. Whether it's because I've grown up or the show has really underwent some kind of stylistic change is a question I'm still deciding on at this time.

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