Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for mild Action and Rude Humor
Directed by: Paul Tibbitt
Written by: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Starring/Voices of: Tom Kenny, Doug Lawrence, Clancy Brown, Antonio Banderas, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass & Carolyn Lawrence
From 1999 until 2004, Stephen Hillenburg served as showrunner on the beloved Nickelodeon series SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. I have many good memories of watching SPONGEBOB with my siblings, on my own, and even seeing the first movie in theaters with my parents. Back in Nickelodeon’s heyday, they were producing quality stuff. It only serves then, like any other greedy network, they would milk the material far past its prime. Many fans of the original SPONGEBOB seasons have struggled to endure a single episode of any of the seasons to come after Hillenburg left. This being said, I really didn’t have any desire or willpower to see SPONGE OUT OF WATER in theaters or ever. It took the prodding of my youngest sibling to even get me to rent this flick and I’m glad that I did. This feels far closer to the wacky early days of SPONGEBOB, which makes sense as Hillenburg helped out with production on this sequel. SPONGE OUT OF WATER is a crazy piece of family entertainment that will get surprising laughs out of viewers of all ages.
It’s a normal day in Bikini Bottom when the villainous Plankton sets out yet again to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula from Krusty Krab. His ingenious plot is thwarted by Mr. Krabs and SpongeBob. However, in the process of retrieving the formula it somehow disintegrates in the hands of both Plankton and SpongeBob. Without the recipe for Krabby Patties, Bikini Bottom descends into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. SpongeBob and Plankton form an unlikely alliance to retrieve the recipe from wherever it disappeared to. This involves time travel, psychic dolphins, trips to the surface, and a villainous pirate named Burger-Beard (played by a hammy Antonio Banderas).
It’s safe to say that SPONGEBOB was always a bit of a drug friendly show. I don’t think there’s any coincidence that its two main audiences became kids and college students during the early 2000’s. There’s clearly a joy that can be taken in watching a show about a talking sponge while stoned out of your mind (not that I would advocate such a thing). SPONGE OF OUT WATER very much feels like a stoner comedy that just happened to feature SpongeBob. The humor is random, chaotic, and works for the most part. I was laughing far harder than I ever expected. It’s certainly one of the better movies to come out of a Nickelodeon TV series (not a giant compliment, but still). While the movie has been marketed as a mostly live-action adventure, that’s not quite the case. In fact, the first 45 minutes play out under the sea as a slightly more cinematic SpongeBob episode.
Ironically enough, the live action portion is where the movie loses a lot of its momentum. It doesn’t become a tedious experience or feel cheap, but it definitely isn’t as funny as the 45 minutes that preceded it. Though most of the jokes are clever and uniquely silly, the film also can’t help throwing out obligatory potty humor on occasion. For every poop and fart joke, I let out a groan, because the original SPONGEBOB really never stooped that low. The script is flimsy to say the least, but serves as an excuse to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. For about 45 minutes, most of it holds surprisingly well. However, when the movie is going into a deliberate Epic Rap Battles of History spoof during the final minutes, I couldn’t help but feel that it was desperate in its attempt to get any response from its viewers. This all being said, the pros outweigh the cons, but most of the pros lie within the first 45 minutes.
I don’t think many people were expecting SPONGE OUT OF WATER to be any good to begin with and that led to me being pleasantly surprised. I had a lot of fun when the movie was playing out like a slightly more cinematic and elongated episode of the show. The time travel bits were by far my favorite parts of the whole movie. The pacing lags once they make it to dry land and that only makes up less than half of the actual running time, so I can imagine some kids being slightly disappointed. This all being said, SPONGE OUT OF WATER feels like a stoner adventure wrapped up in guise of a kid’s movie. Take that how you will.