When parents are dragged to a kids movie, it’s in the filmmakers’ best interest to include content adults will enjoy as well. And if there’s one animated show that knows this better than most, it’s SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, may have written and directed the first big screen adventure, but series director Paul Tibbit, knows what makes the show so great. And Tibbit keeps The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water filled to the brim with an archaic, anything-goes surreality. No joke is too low; even when they are, there’s a certain level of cleverness — not to mention charm — that makes it all work.
Sponge Out of Water introduces us to the nefarious pirate Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas) who is searching for a magical book about SpongeBob’s (voiced by Tom Kenny) latest adventure in Bikini Bottom. It turns out that anything written inside the book comes true. But the book is missing a page containing the secret Krabby Patty recipe. In Bikini Bottom, Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) is also trying to steal the recipe from Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown). Once Plankton manages to steal the recipe, it’s made to look like SpongeBob was in cahoots, and Bikini Bottom becomes an apocalyptic cesspool when the Krusty Krab restaurant runs out of Krabby Patties. Now, it’s up to SpongeBob and Plankton to join forces to clear their names by building a time machine, taking them into a race through space, time, and above water, to save the day.
Typically animated features are packed with writers and co-writers, but with Sponge Out of Water, things are kept to a tight two in Glen Berger and Jonathan Aibel. While both are new to the world of SpongeBob and friends, thankfully they’ve stayed on the good side of their resume. While they’ve been responsible for both Kung Fu Pandas and Monsters vs. Aliens, they also wrote the last two Alvin and the Chipmunks sequels. I’m sure the guidance of director Tibbet and creator Hillenburg being responsible for the story helped keep them in check, but things definitely could have gone awry. As it stands, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a fantastic way to kick of the year’s family films.
The voice cast, and Banderas, are clearing having a blast, with no joke too silly or over-the-top to avoid. While there may be the expected poop and fart jokes, they’re not only kept to a minimum, they’re actually kind of funny. Since Tibbet and company don’t rely on these jokes it keeps them from smothering the fun out of the film. Not to mention the film/pop culture references that’ll fly right over kids’ heads — the best being a nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and an “Epic Rap Battle.” The 3D aspect doesn’t really add anything until the action is taken above water in the real world, but it’s here that it really shines. The live-action versions of our characters are completely believable and almost more endearing than their hand-drawn counterparts.
The final word is that The SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water is a hilarious romp that keeps insanity running wild, ensuring everyone is having a good time. Something most animated films seem to neglect, usually making these films an endurance test for adults. It took over 10 years for a sequel to arrive in theaters and who knows if we’ll ever see another adventure of SpongeBob and his friends on the big screen. At least Sponge Out of Water has given us an adventure that goes out on a high note.