This week, Animated Anarchy brings disorder to the briny deep reviewing the #1 movie in America this weekend, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water!
I didn’t go into this movie with the highest of expectations. I was one of the few kids growing up in 1999 who didn’t really like SpongeBob Squarepants as it graced the airwaves of Nickelodeon. Following the adventures of a marine manchild who existed only to flip burgers and annoy the ever-loving ink out of his neighbor Squidward didn’t make for a good cartoon in my eyes. I especially had ire for the show as Nickelodeon already had two fantastic programs about arrested development with the criminally underrated Rocko’s Modern Life and Angry Beavers. Why should I care about the program that overshadowed nearly everything I really loved on that network?
These days, I can respect SpongeBob for being genuinely charming and more absurdly clever than it let on. Series creator Stephen Hillenburg was noticeably inspired by the works of people like John Kricfalusi, Joe Murray, and even childlike characters like Pee-Wee Herman to make a show that was off-kilter, but appropriate for all ages.
What’s funny about that, is because I was never invested in the show when I was little, I’m also not bothered by the supposed dip in quality that happened in the show around Season 6. I find SpongeBob still works as all the characters became more egocentric and obnoxious…they were kind of that way to begin with. So I don’t mind seeing the antics become more broad and exploitative, especially as our main character’s goal in life was to be a fast food fry cook. Still, I feel that sympathy to a great kid’s show sinking to the depths of hell, as myself or any other fan of the Fairly OddParents would tell you.
Maybe that unique history I have with the show gave me a more neutral outlook on this new movie. I never saw the first SpongeBob Squarepants movie that came out more than a decade ago. (Yes, it’s that old) Both films had positive reviews with critics and audiences, so I had to see if Spongebob’s newest foray to the silver screen would still hold water for someone who should only be still watching the program intoxicated.
Sponge Out Of Water is very much like a Greatest Hits Album. The same core is there, as the 2D Animation looks just like the show but with cinematic levels of shading and it has everything you expect from the silly tone to the wonderful voice actors of Tom Kenny as Spongebob, Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs, and Dave/Mr. Lawerence as Plankton. Most of the movie plays tribute to several of the classic fan-favorite Spongebob episodes such as “F.U.N.,” “SB-129,” “Plankton!,” and “Culture Shock.” So for someone like myself who was familiar with the series, half of the movie was just watching an extended episode.
What works surprisingly well to the film’s credit is all of the live action scenes. Most of them are centered around the key villain Burger-Beard, played quite well by Antonio Banderas whose ability to steal the Krusty Krab Formula leaves all of Bikini Bottom is disarray. Banderas works very well as a physical comedian and never once breaks his façade of playing the over the top pirate who is fighting against sea creatures or his group of bothersome talking seagulls. I particularly loved his reasons for stealing the formula and how he would make fun of storybook clichés to do so.
When the film finally jumps to live action, the way the characters are integrated in the real world is super fun. All the characters on land have a soft, plastic, child’s toy appearance, which works as a nice transition from the TV show where we would see real sponges or starfish on sticks. This is one of those rare movies where sending a popular franchise to the human world actually succeeds by making it funny and spending just enough time so you don’t get worn out on the premise.
That’s a unique aspect of the movie how most of the jokes centered on being Meta. It’s like Steven Hillenburg and Paul Tibbit know how played out this story is with Plankton stealing the formula. Characters like Squidward or Plankton would make self-deprecating remarks about bad puns or overreactions with the rest of Bikini Bottom reacting in their typical insane way. As familiar as I am with Patrick being stupid or SpongeBob being naïve, the script has a way of laughing at the characters expense that feels funny again.
However, because it’s so reliant on the viewer’s experience of SpongeBob, it doesn’t make the movie as epic as it should. This could have easily been shown on Nickelodeon with no one being the wiser and I didn’t see it in 3D, although many of the scenes are gimmicky. For the first half of the movie, you are watching everything play through the motions and maybe chuckling at half of the jokes thrown your way. Don’t make a mistake; just because SpongeBob’s fans have grown up, the movie is stilling aim relatively low.
If anything, I wish the writers were more ambitious making PG-related jokes or having more celebrities in there to make the experience more worthwhile. I can’t give enough praise for Antonio Banderas interacting with all the cartoon characters so well. But I also need to give a special credit to Matt Berry (From The IT Crowd and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) who voices a very Hitchhiker’s Guide inspired dolphin. His booming, 70s-inspired delivery is perfect for moving the plot forward in a more enjoyable, absurd direction. (And he has a great scene at the end which I won’t give away)
This is a short movie, only 90 minutes total complete with credits and that’s probably the best direction to take with a property like SpongeBob Squarepants. Like a Krabby Patty, it’s fast, cheap entertainment that gives you the rush you want while giving you time to go back to the daily grind. There weren’t any bigger aspirations other than that, as the plot does want to stray at all from anything you aren’t familiar with.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a good movie and great for washing out of the taste of the god awful Strange Magic out of my mouth. Yes, I wish it could have done more rather than playing such a safe, familiar route to people who already know everything about the series. It’s good for kids and fans of the show, but it won’t stay for long in your brain. Many of the jokes could be better, but I’m glad this managed to be another TV-show-turned-movie that was well made. And just as it took American Sniper off the #1 Box Office Slot, I hope it stays that way for Valentine’s Day…
My Arbitrary Rating for Sponge Out Of Water: 7 out of 10 Brains of Cotton Candy.
Thanks for reading the 10th Animated Anarchy Blog on Oneofus.net! Did you see SpongeBob? What are your thoughts? This was a much shorter blog than normal, but just you wait! Right before the 87th Academy Awards, expect some thick, juicy retrospective articles coming out in the next few weeks. Leave a comment below!
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