The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)
Making waves in our world
He may live in a pineapple at the bottom of the ocean, but he’s back on the big screen. After sixteen years at the top of children’s entertainment, SpongeBob SquarePants has once again splashed his way into cinemas with a brand new bubble blower. Unless you’re like SpongeBob himself, and live at the bottom of the sea, you’ll know that Stephen Hillenburg originally created this tinny yellow sponge back in 1999 for children’s cable network, Nickelodeon. Sixteen years on, SpongeBob — the overly optimistic fry cook who flips burgers at underwater diner, The Krusty Krab — is finally being brought to life, thanks to some nifty special effects work, along with his dim-witted best friend, Patrick Star (voice supplied by Bill Fagerbakke), genius rodent, Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), disgruntled neighbor, Squidward Tentacles (with Rodger Bumpass lending his vocals) and money-loving boss, Mr. Krabs (voiced by the versatile Clancy Brown). Over the years SpongeBob has shaped a generation with laughs, lessons and memorable episodes such as ‘Pickles,’ ‘Jelly Fish Jam’ and ‘Pizza Delivery,’ proving to be ground-breaking children’s television, whilst a 2004 big screen adaptation, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which gave the world the phenomena of the ‘Goofy Goober Rock,’ confirmed the character’s appeal outside of the small screen.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water essentially follows our heroes as they embark on an epic quest to save the Krabby Patty Secret Formula from the clutches of evil. After Sheldon J. Plankton, aka Plankton — Mr. Krabs’ nemesis and the main antagonist in the SpongeBob SquarePants television series, voiced by Mr. Lawrence — is foiled in yet another of his attempts at stealing the top-secret recipe — a plan involving a tank and a gargantuan doppelganger robot — Spongebob and Mr. Krabs think they’ve seen the last of the tiny green organism. Though, their bubble quickly bursts as SpongeBob swiftly discovers that Plankton has in fact snuck into the safe where the recipe is being kept, and in a mad struggle to stop the pint-sized criminal from seizing the formula, it abruptly vanishes, leaving the whole of Bikini Bottom to believe that SpongeBob had betrayed Mr. Krabs. With no Krabby Patty’s available at The Krusty Krab fast food restaurant, the forlorn underwater city falls into apocalyptic chaos. Now SpongeBob, having nowhere to turn, must team up with his long-time adversary, Plankton, and travel across the ocean, through time and space, to solve the perplexing mystery of the disappearing Krabby Patty formula.
As always, SpongeBob is once again voiced by the immensely talented Tom Kenny, who is also responsible for supplying his vocals to characters such as the Ice King from Adventure Time (2010) and countless other Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network productions. Here, Kenny continues to provide the familiar upbeat, gung-ho attitude the rectangular sea sponge has become renowned for. Accompanying the many familiar background and side players is perpetually brilliant newcomer, Matt Berry of IT Crowd (2006) fame, who lends his superb voice and quirky, sultry tones to a psychedelic stop-motion cosmic dolphin, named Bubbles. The animated cast are also joined by a very ‘real-life’ Antonio Banderas, Spy Kids (2001), who plays the villainous pirate, Captain Burger-Beard and, as with most pirates in contemporary media, his look is a little Captain-Jack-Sparrow-wanna-be-esque, although, one can possibly blame the costume department for this uncanny likeness. Taking pleasure in the role, Banderas — in the film’s live-action sequences — delivers a relatively funny, albeit standard pirate act, fitting the picture’s cartoonish style to a tee whilst adding a comical charm to Burger-Beard; however, it feels as though Banderas’ name is simply just a promotional hook for adults, unfamiliar with the series.
Thrown around as a larger-than-life, live-action 3D adventure, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water feels a tad gimmicky, as a significant portion of the feature takes place in the traditional, warmly familiar, 2D animated SpongeBob SquarePants world, which is surprising to say the least, given the picture’s advertising campaign which is chiefly made up of live-action footage. It takes approximately an hour for our 2D protagonists to depart their customary submerged dwelling and spring into the real world. From this point, their computer-generated versions are thrown around and showcased wonderfully, soaking up the sun, particularly after they change into their superhero alter egos, with SpongeBob becoming Invincibubble, Patrick transforming into Mr. Superaweseomness, and Mr. Krabs’ Sir Pinch-a-Lot playing on the name of the late 80’s early 90’s hip-hop artist Sir Mix-a-Lot. It’s in these above-water sequences where the film really comes into its own, jumping out of the page, so to speak, mixing adult gags and action with childish humor; vibrant, bright and fun, this three-dimensional environment provides an interesting backdrop for our squeezable star. On the other hand, the decision to showcase the flick in 3D — although one can see the appeal — feels somewhat unnecessary, given that the majority of the narrative takes place in the 2D setting; nonetheless, the magic might still enchant youngsters in the final eye-popping third act.
No stranger to SpongeBob, Paul Tibbitt — having written and directed a large number of television episodes and penning the 2004 film — does a decent job breathing new ‘life’ into this zany animated series, crafting a meta feature that’s perfect for children of all ages, regardless of their familiarity with the ramblings of this talking yellow kitchen implement. Despite the fact that The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is loaded with laughs, thrills, spills, parodies and a whole lot of heart, it’s unfortunate that, unlike the 2004 film, this adaptation is not necessarily ‘one for the fans,’ feeling like a stand-alone time-travel kid’s picture that happens to drop the much loved character at the its center of its madness — then again, there are some great in-jokes here and there, including the infamous, ‘My leg!’ running gag from the series. As a result, Sponge Out of Water essentially feels like an hour-long TV episode, giving off a weird vibe, with half-an-hour of wild action 3D animation thrown in at the end, and should have really been titled, Sponge Out of Time.
After nearly 20 years of producing top quality children’s entertainment this sponge, at long last, seems to be drying out. Featuring three trippy tracks by N.E.R.D, titled ‘Squeeze Me,’ ‘Patrick Star’ and ‘Sandy Squirrel,’ and like its predecessor, songs sung by the actors themselves, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is by no means an unenjoyable film, it’s big, loud and in-you-face. Under the guidance of TV series writer-director Paul Tibbitt, this undersea idol finds new reason to bounce out of the television and dive back into the big screen, and while visually engaging, Sponge Out of Water feels slightly stranger than your typical SquarePants outing and lacks that something uniquely SpongeBob.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Kathryn Snowball
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is released through Paramount Pictures Australia