Film Review: ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’

spongebob squarepants movie sequel

A memorably surreal addition to the 'SpongeBob' bigscreen franchise.

As far as nautical nonsense goes, it’s hard to top the climax of 2004’s “The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie,” in which the fate of our heroes hinged on the density of David Hasselhoff’s leg hair. This year’s follow-up, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” may not quite equal those heights, but by doubling down on the Nickelodeon series’ inherent surreality, it proves just as memorable. Alternately inspired, exhausting, clever, stupid (not to mention stupid-clever), and about as meta as any kidpic this side of “Duck Amuck,” the Paul Tibbitt-directed feature ought to prove equally popular among the franchise’s key grade-schooler and head-shop-owner demographics.

Though the film’s marketing materials make the most of its characters’ expansion into three-dimensional CG, most of the first two acts take the more familiar form of Stephen Hillenburg’s TV toon, interspersed with live-action narration from an irritable pirate (Antonio Banderas) relating the tale to a flock of talking seagulls.

Down in the undersea hamlet of Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) and Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) are busy fending off the latest incursion from failed invertebrate restaurateur Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) to steal the secret Krabby Patty recipe that keeps the venerable Krusty Krab afloat. As usual, Plankton’s schemes are foiled, yet in the aftermath, the recipe mysteriously vanishes. Deprived of its beloved Krabby Patties, Bikini Bottom descends into “Mad Max”-esque post-apocalyptic chaos within seconds. (“I hope you like leather,” Krabs quips to Squidward, in the first of many references — others involve Stanley Kubrick, Douglas Adams and Sergio Leone — that will fly high over the heads of the youngest audiences.)

As the only one who believes Plankton innocent of the recipe’s disappearance, SpongeBob teams up with his onetime adversary to track it down, while Bikini Bottom careens further and further into savagery. The story doesn’t take long to begin to break down, spinning off on several seasons’ worth of tangents at once, offering distinctive takes on subjects ranging from time travel to Aztec human sacrifice, the Fisher King myth, the efficacy of torture, and the proliferation of food trucks. In the film’s most hallucinatory sequence, Plankton takes a journey inside SpongeBob’s unconscious; in its most elaborate, the gang all emerge onto the surface in full CG, where they wreak havoc on a crowded beach and form an “Avengers”-style superhero squad. (Mike Mitchell is credited as director for the live-action sequences, which are amusing enough, if a bit prosaic compared with the much richer silliness of the 2D animation.)

At 92 minutes, this can all become a bit much for the non-addled adult minds in attendance, and a few more down moments might have been welcome. But then again, a “dark night of the soul” sequence would hardly have been appropriate here, and credit is due to director Tibbitt for never even feigning a lick of seriousness. At times there’s a genuine sense of daring to the film’s freewheeling anarchy, its refusal to stick to a central theme or impart any sort of lesson.

On a technical level, “SpongeBob” has certainly never pretended to be a Studio Ghibli feature, but the film’s palette is as bright and colorful as ever. Pharrell Williams contributes some goofy original songs alongside NERD bandmates Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, but none are anywhere near as memorable as the extended rap battle written by YouTube stars Peter Shukoff and Lloyd Ahiquist. 

Film Review: 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water'

Reviewed at AMC Century City, Jan. 31, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.

Production

A Paramount release of a Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon Movies presentation of a United Plankton Pictures production. Produced by Paul Tibbitt, Mary Parent. Executive producers, Stephen Hillenburg, Cale Boyter.

Crew

Directed by Paul Tibbitt. Live-action director, Mike Mitchell. Screenplay, Glenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel, from a story by Stephen Hillenburg, Tibbitt, based on the series “SpongeBob Squarepants,” created by Hillenburg. Camera (color, 3D), Phil Meheux; editor, David Ian Salter; music, John Debney; art director, Priscilla Elliott; set decorator, Chuck Potter; sound (Dolby Digital; Dolby Surround 5.1/Datasat), Jonathan Gaynor; supervising sound editor, Tim Chau; re-recording mixers, Chau, Tim LeBlanc, Clayton Weber; visual effects supervisor, Glenn Melenhorst; special effects supervisor, Mike Meinardus; stereographer, Aaron Perry; assistant director, Lisa C. Satriano.

With

Antonio Banderas. Voices: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Jill Talley, Mr. Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Dee Bradley Baker, Carolyn Lawrence, Matt Berry.

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  1. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants! Absorbent and yellow and porous is he? Spongebob Squarepants! His nautical nonsense is something to wish. Spongebob Squarepants! Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish. Spongebob Squarepants!

    You know the rest. What person under forty doesn’t know the tune to the Nickelodeon hit Spongebob Squarepants? It’s grown to such a level in our culture that the little sponge is now up there in the cartoon ranks of Betty Boop, Popeye, and Fred Flintstone. I remember watching the premiere of the cartoon while I was staying at a friend’s house. We were watching the Kids Choice Awards in 1999 and this unknown sea creature was next.

    The reasons I liked this guy was for the same reason I liked him in the beginning; Spongebob himself is a very likable character. He’s overly optimistic, he a bit of a goofball, but he loves everyone to a core. He makes mistakes but tends to learn from them. He’s obviously struck a cord on everyone else if he’s still around today (which of course makes me feel old). That sponge is now making his second cinematic adventure in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.

    On land, a pirate named Burger Beard (played by Antonio Banderas) has obtained a magical book that tells the colorful adventures of Spongebob, yet can be rewritten at any point to change whatever goes down in Bikini Bottom. Meanwhile, Spongebob and his boss Mr. Krabs are once again stopping the evil Plankton from steeling the Krusty Krab krabby patty formula (the McGuffin of the Spongebob universe). As plankton nearly succeeds in making his latest caper, the formula suddenly vanishes out of thin air. With no way to make new krabby patties, the entire town wants Plankton dead despite his innocence.

    Spongebob manages to create an escape for he and Plankton, making them fugitives. They devise a plan to build a time machine to go back before the formula was stolen. When that doesn’t work, they are nearly taken as a sacrifice, but stop when they notice the smell of the famous fast food coming from above. Knowing that they have to go above the surface, Spongebob, Patrick the starfish, Sandy the squirrel, Squidward the squid and Mr. Krabs venture forth onto the beach where they see that Burger Beard was the one who took their formula. It’s the sea creatures vs. the pirates for the krabby patty secret formula.

    It was eleven years ago since we got Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie and though it’s no masterpiece, I thought it was a big step for the little sponge and remains a strong animated film from Nickelodeon. The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water pulls out all logic to give us something even goofier. I say this in a good way for fans like myself who expect a lot of the characters oddball personalities and even the show’s somewhat abstract animation.

    The film’s trailers have advertised the live action sequences even though they take up only the last twenty minutes. The rest of the film is traditionally animated like the show itself. I’m not complaining, as cinema today is seriously lacking in such beauty and even takes advantage by plussing up the look of Bikini Bottom as The Simpsons Movie did for Springfield.

    Though the voice actors do a good job with their established characters, Antonio Bandaris totally steels the show as the most stereotypical pirate that you would normally see at a children’s birthday party, yet is really having fun and is in on the shows goofy atmosphere. My only criticism is that while Spongebob goes through a good character growth in the first movie, here everything goes back to normal where it all started. I guess they have to keep it in sync with the cartoon, but a lesson learned would have been nice.

    I’ll give this eight krabby patties out of ten. You’ll know if you like this movie by watching Spongebob on TV first. If you don’t like the show, your not going to be swayed by this movie, but I expect this to be a pleaser for dedicated fans.

  2. La says:

    So this is what happens when you legalize marijuana? I have never watched Sponge Bob but bits and pieces. Talk about upside down morality. This movie is not for kids, and if the cartoon is like this it is not for kids. Here’s my take. Here are the lessons it teaches our kids:
    1. Good guys can be greedy.
    2. Attempts at robbery go unpunished.
    3. If you can’t get what you want it’s okay to riot, loot and burn things down.
    4. Teamwork is only an endeavor for success. If a teammate fails in decision making it’s on him and you should bail from a failing team.
    5. Any adult has to be high as a kite to enjoy it as it is all over the place with the story line as if written by someone with ADHD. Not to worry thought the psychedelics with a good high will make it worth the money.

    All I can say for the creators of Sponge Bob is my child will no longer be watching it, and if this is your attempt to copy a Smurf’s type cartoon, get rid of the ADHD and clean up the story line and morals. Yes Smurfs had the mushroom high thing going on but at least their story lines were clean and easy to follow, not all over the place and taught good morals.

  3. Marcos lopes says:

    Two words “rip off”. My 8 year old kept asking me when the real movie was going to start. It is basically a TV episode with 5 minutes of 3d animation.
    the TV trailer is very misleading.

  4. Dad says:

    This may sound odd but the things parents do. My daughter is a big SB fan but she has fears of watching movies. She’s afraid it will contain potty humor, specifically urination. You might be surprised how many movies use this gag for cheap laughs. It really bothers her when she sees it. She’ll worry the entire movie unless I can assure her there is no potty humor. I’ve wrong before and I would like to be certain before I convince her to see the SB movie. So for those of you who seen the movie is there anything for her to fear?

  5. juanaalmonte says:

    I watched this and I love it

  6. juanaalmonte says:

    I would want to this everyday

  7. Jason says:

    I went to the screening for this movie and fell asleep through half the movie. There was little to no laughter in the theater in which half the filled audience was children. In comparison, the Big Hero 6 screening I had went to months back was filled with laughter of all ages throughout the movie.
    Nickelodeon needs some better writing and wittier comedy. There is so much silliness and randomness even a child can take. It seems as if the writers didn’t even try and relied on the popularity of the characters to please the audience. This is coming from a Spongebob fan of over 10 years

    • njwhitey says:

      I have just come from a screening at Paramount, the kids were all laughing thoughout, and the adults were joining in at points. The whole Dolphin sequence was ridiculous. Not sure what was wrong with you miserable lot, this film was great.

      • Zach says:

        You did nothing of the sort. You probably work at Paramount, trying to make this miserable excuse of an exploited property look good.

    • CarlNigassi says:

      This movie sucks. I think that’s what he was trying to say.

    • Jason says:

      I suck because I speak my opinion on this movie? It seems like you’d be a great writer for Nickelodeon reading your witty and comedic criticism. Work on your grammar and you may be something in life. Every word capitalized? Come on man you learn that in elementary school!

  8. In case the author of this piece can see this, I’m asking are you sure that Matt Berry is in this movie because there are no notices of it on IMDB for the movie or his IMDB profile

  9. Al Patrickson says:

    Glad they gave this movie a good review, unlike Hollywood Reporter. This movie is gonna top the box office next week with $34.5M.

    • CarlNigassi says:

      No way. This film will NOT top the box office. The 1st movie didn’t and that’s when SpongeBob was at the height of it’s popularity. The show hasn’t been relevant since 2009, so no, it won’t do very well.

    • Greg says:

      It better or Nick’s going to pull the plug on this series. Remember what happened with Rugrats Go WIld?

      • CarlNigassi says:

        No, SpongeBob’s days are numbered. The show won’t make it to 2019, and Nickelodeon will start exploiting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

      • wjm980 says:

        Spare me. SpongeBob will be on Nick long after you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

  10. 1rajesh says:

    Hey can’t wait to see this movie

    • CarlNigassi says:

      You’d be one of the few people who actually want to.

      • Lremy says:

        My daughter and I left before the movie ended. It was like Sponge Bob on Drugs! No real flow of a storyline.

        We have such a headache from the busyness and oddity of the film. Wish it was better!

  11. CarlNigassi says:

    The last thing the world needed was anything SpongeBob SquarePants related. This movie is going to suck and I hope it fails.

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