The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water

by Jake Mulligan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday February 6, 2015

A scene from 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water'
A scene from 'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water'  (Source:Nickelodeon Movies / Paramount Pictures)

The best I can say about "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," the second theatrically released film featuring Nickelodeon's titular sea dweller, is that kids will love it. Fashioned with all the latest accoutrements they could desire -- 3-D, sequences based off superhero movies, bathroom humor -- the film is as hyperactive as any 8-year old. It swaps between live-action and animation, between comedy and "action," and utilizes as many crash zooms and visual flourishes as an Italian genre film. This isn't much of a movie, but it offers one hell of a sugar high.

For viewers who don't crave candy in between episodes of cartoons, though, the film leaves much to be desired. The first hour is read aloud, by Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas!), from a storybook. He's regaling his avian friends with the tale of Bikini Bottom (Spongebob's hometown), which was plunged into chaos after a time traveling plot left them without any Krabby Patties (hamburgers). Burger Beard is, of course, the culprit, to which Spongebob and his gang take exception, leading to the "sponge out of water" (live-action) thing. That opening hour is entirely animated, though, which creates a lame duck narrative structure: We know where we're going, but it takes far too long to get there.

And director Paul Tibbit doesn't have much to do with his crew underwater. His comedy is closer to "Shrek" than to anything truly anarchic or chaotic -- all he can do is make references: Two ominous popsicle sticks that mirror the ghost twins from "The Shining," or an inspirational speech set to the score music for "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." When he's not nudging you in the side and reminding you of other movies, Tibbit does find some pleasantly absurd gags, like when Spongebob takes a tour of his social world after the apocalypse has taken hold. Each friend fits a different wasteland stereotype: Patrick the starfish would sell Spongebob out for just one Burger; Sandy the squirrel is playing mad doctor searching for an explanation for the madness; Squidward the grump quits his job and walks out on everyone. Even Spongebob's pet, Gary, gets a Mad Max-ified job title: He becomes King of the Snails.

So we kill time with non-sequiturs for an hour, then go above ground for 20 minutes, so that the characters may save the day in live-action because the film needs a selling point. The Bikini Bottom crew finds themselves on dry land, where they find Burger Beard selling their priceless Krabby Patties at a crassly designed food truck. Ugly-looking, super-powered, computer-generated versions of Spongebob and his gang go to war with Burger Beard, trading cannon blasts, and more lame 3-D-accentuated humor. (Apparently we will never grow tired of characters flying at the screen.) The live-action sequences aren't even the emphasis, they're another non-sequitur. Just one joke thrown at the wall among thousands -- and precious few land cleanly.