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“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”

Original Publish Date: 
February 9, 2015

By Bob Garver, Metro Contributing Movie Reviewer

I watched a few episodes of the “SpongeBob SquarePants” cartoon to get me in the mood for “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.” I know I’m not their target audience, but I also know that I’ve laughed at a few of them over the years. The research turned out to be a bad idea. Not only does the juvenile humor not hold up for me, but I got more than my fill of the SpongeBob character. A little bit of SpongeBob goes a long way with his squeaky voice and unrelenting chipperness, and the last thing this movie needs is to have the viewer already sick of him before they enter the theater.

A quick intro to the characters and setting: SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) is a hopelessly upbeat sea sponge who lives at the bottom of the sea in a town called Bikini Bottom. His best friends are a dimwitted starfish named Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) and a scuba-diving squirrel named Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence). He also finds time to annoy his neighbor Squidward (Roger Bumpass). He works at a fast food restaurant called The Krusty Krab, owned by the jolly-but-greedy Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), serving the eatery’s signature Krabby Patties to a community that apparently revolves around fast food. Occasionally he has to play security, protecting the burger’s secret formula from rival restauranteur Plankton (Mr. Lawrence).

For the movie, the secret formula is indeed stolen, not by Plankton, but by a human (and live-action) pirate called Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas). Initially the town thinks that Plankton stole the formula with the help of SpongeBob and there are some chase antics around that, but soon everyone is on the same page and on the (live-action) surface in search of the real culprit. They get ahold of a page of Burger Beard’s magic book (one of those magical movie books where you can make anything happen just by writing in it) and turn themselves into superheroes for the inevitable showdown with the pirate. Supposedly they’re doing this for practical reasons, but you know the real reason is so they can sell toys of the characters in their superhero costumes.

The film’s humor is pretty much the same as the show’s. Wordplay ranges from the painfully horrible (beware the misuse of “anemone”) to the merely slightly horrible (okay, I laughed at a few, like Plankton’s evil mispronunciation of the work “teamwork”). Most of the humor just revolves around the characters being stupid and clumsy, which for grownups will wear out its welcome quickly. This is a movie I like to refer to as “junk food” for kids. It isn’t clever or enriching, just a lot of dumb gags fired at a rapid pace to make you forget that most of them aren’t funny by themselves. But at least with so many, a few of them are bound to work. Of course, this means that even more are going to make you want to curl up into a ball and whimper. That’s the appropriate reaction for a dud gag, right? Please tell me that’s normal.

Aside from the live-action portion and a trippy visit with a space dolphin (a sequence I’ve actually heard complimented, though I found it pointless), there isn’t much that makes “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” seem like anything more than an extended episode of the TV show. There isn’t even that much that’s special about the live-action portion, just our CGI heroes bouncing off of oblivious humans.  Kids can do better right now with “Paddington” and adults can do better with any number of awards-season favorites.

One and a Half Stars out of Five.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” is rated PG for mild action and rude humor. Its running time is 93 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu