The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water
2015, PG, 93 min. Directed by Paul Tibbitt. Voices by Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Mr. Lawrence, Carolyn Lawrence, Matt Berry. Starring Antonio Banderas.
REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., Feb. 13, 2015
In a computer-generated sea of carefully obscured traumas and tidy life lessons, one sentient sponge dares not to take animated matters so seriously. Arriving a full decade after its big-screen predecessor, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water returns to the hand-drawn depths of Bikini Bottom and maintains the anarchic charms of both that film and the Nickelodeon series that introduced the world to the wide-eyed, high-pitched likes of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Ever the devoted grill jockey at the Krusty Krab, SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) is once again enlisted by owner Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) to protect the restaurant’s secret Krabby Patty recipe from megalomaniacal rival Plankton (Mr. Lawrence). Once the recipe vanishes into thin air, SpongeBob and Plankton team up to clear their names and save Bikini Bottom’s burger-mad residents from their own feral impulses.
More so than 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Paul Tibbitt’s follow-up feels like a loose assembly of three episodes involving end times, time travel, and superheroics, all improbably framed by the above-water misdeeds of dastardly pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas, incredibly game as the lone live-action star). However, it’s tough to hold a lack of narrative ambition against any ’toon so eager to lob bit after bit of psychedelic surrealism at its audience, be they wee tykes or stoned adults.
Whether the jokes bank on familiar genre tropes (the insta-Apocalypse arrives complete with leather gear for all), cultural nostalgia (Schoolhouse Rock!, anyone?), torture implements (the most effective of which being SpongeBob’s inane laugh), or an old-fashioned drop of the pants, the cumulative effect is akin to mainlining Pixy Stix. There are puns aplenty and no shortage of trippy visuals, whether characters venture into SpongeBob’s cotton candy-addled brain or into the farthest reaches of space to meet a cosmic dolphin (Matt Berry) as prone to firing off blowhole lasers as he is to dropping dope rhymes.
It’s high-brow, low-brow, and just about every brow in between, replete with meta winkiness and manic energy. The sponge does lose some steam once he and his cohorts venture onto land and transform themselves into CGI superheroes in an effort to satisfy both mainstream appeal and toy manufacturers. Still, there’s something to be said for a family film that only pays the most sarcastic lip service to the power of teamwork, being far too busy working itself into a lather of laughs to care much about messages.