This may come as a surprise to you, but Spongebob Squarepants is still the juggernaut of a cartoon it was when it first debuted back in 1999. Never ceasing to keep kids’ attention thanks to its unique characters and ever evolving comedy. Most importantly, it just has a lot of fun.
I’ve been excited for Sponge Out of Water for some time. A sequel to a ten year old film, Water looked ambitious, full of crazy art styles, and once again had all of the fun that the series is known for. Good thing the film mostly lives up to that even if the humor has changed from what I remember.
When the Krabby Patty formula mysteriously vanishes from the Krusty Krab, Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) end up to blame for its disappearance after some hijinks. As Bikini Bottom falls into post-apocalyptic madness, Spongebob and Plankton form a te-am in order to find the formula and save the town. Their shenanigans eventually brings them to the mysterious pirate Burgerbeard (Antonio Banderas) and a magic book which seems to control their lives.
First off, Sponge Out of Water is definitely for kids. Unlike most animated films, Water isn’t afraid to cater to its audience so it’s full of hyperactivity a mile a minute. Fortunately, this isn’t always a bad thing. While the rapid fire nature of the jokes might turn the older crowd off, enough of them land that the balance is tipped more in the film’s favor. I found myself laughing quite a bit at the way the humor was crafted. While seemingly random, punchlines are stemmed from unlikely places and not wasted on obvious jokes. Like when Spongebob and Plankton first work together, there’s so much humor mined from Plankton’s inability to say the word “teamwork,” and the dialogue exchanges during these bits is incredibly nuanced (“Teamwork.” “Te-am wok.” “Say ‘team.'” “Team.” “Now say ‘work.” “Work.” “Teamwork.” “Timebomb.”) that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Or all the post-apocalyptic stuff. That’s all golden.
Sponge Out of Water is also incredibly animated. It’s one of the few films that’s absolutely better in 3D, and it’s full of slick and gorgeous animation. The transition between the 2D plane and CG shenanigans seen in the trailers is seamless (although it’s unfortunately relegated to a short finale). While the first Spongebob Movie felt more like a longer episode of the television show, Water’s bigger budget and zealous effort really shines through. This is the first one that feels like a “movie,” if that makes any sense. It’s wonderfully experimental too. There’s shifts in animation styles like with the time machine bits (which are so weirdly done, it’s hard not to love), cotton candy brains, and of course with the guardian who watches over time. It’s inventive, and these ever changing styles work well with this film’s incredibly fast pace.
But the biggest problem with the film is simultaneously its biggest asset. It caters to its young audience, which also means it’s of very little consequence. A film you can have on in the background and sort of watch, a film you can sit your kids in front of to buy you an hour of quiet time, and it’s a film without some grand message about the human condition (or any message beyond “te-am wok”) to interpret. And while the film is fun, there are some decisions that are far too zany and experimental to work even for the kids it’s trying to entertain (the final few minutes will definitely make you scratch your head). Yet, it’s hard not to love a film with a main character who, at his most rebellious, mixes garbage with the recycling. Oh, and I almost forgot about Antonio Banderas! He completely throws himself into this, and is in one of the funnest roles I’ve seen him in a long time.
While it’s not perfect, Sponge Out of Water isn’t afraid to have fun at its own expense. It’s a party celebrating Spongebob Squarepants and the fact that it’s still popular enough to churn out a movie ten years later. In fact, it won’t care what I think as its naive charm will continue to entertain regardless of what I’ve said here.
If you’re going to see The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water for more of Spongebob Squarepants (absorbent and yellow and porous is he) then you won’t be disappointed. For everyone else, they’ll drop on the deck and flop like a fish.