Final Rating: 6.5/10
Spongebob Squarepants is a cartoon that has surpassed both time and age barriers. Somehow, a show about a cleaning utensil being friends with a lazy starfish and being coworkers with a narcissistic squid did well. It did so well that there are fans my own age that still stick to the show. When Stephen Hillenburg, the show’s creator, left the team after a few seasons, the golden years of the show were over. It was never the same. The surreal world of nonsense, akin to a modern representation of the non sequiturs found in the work of Lewis Carroll, became less magical. There is somehow heart found behind stupidity, and the first three or four seasons of Spongebob Squarepants set the standard for all absent minded cartoons out there, whether they be Rocko’s Modern Life or Adventure Time.
When Hillenburg was attached to this new film, the eventual sequel to the 2004 movie, there seemed to be a large amount of interest in the film again. Could this have been a return to form in a feature over an hour long? With promise that the characters would return to the surface and appear in CGI 3D, along with the fact that they would be super heros, the possibilities seemed endless. For a movie called Sponge Out of Water, we were ready for not just a return of quality but a push of what we already knew into a region fresh for us.
The hour and a half film just barely works. You’d suspect this is because we couldn’t stand silliness for that long (given that the show is comprised of two sets of ten minute brain melting episodes). This would not be the case, seeing that some of the jokes are absolutely hysterical and a reminder of what the show once was. At the same time, some of the jokes fall as flat as an anchor hitting the ocean floor. You can almost tell which jokes came from which sets of writers: The new and the old. For every joke that had me in stitches, there would be one that made me groan and hope that another side splitter wasn’t far away. Aside from this, the imagination is still as hyper fueled as always. Whether you find Spongebob at all entertaining or not, never mind which season, you have to give the team credit for the never ending images that seem impossible to come up with yourself.
This only gets tired because the actual pacing of events is as slow as Gary the Snail. A lot happens. In fact, a boat load happens. Only a handful of plot advancing events happen, though, and we are stuck festering in a stew of noise and calamity when we should be pushing forwards. We are stuck in the 2D Bikini Bottom for a good chunk of the movie. When I say this, I mean that we were in 2D for so long that I thought I was watching the wrong movie and that the 3D adventure we were promised was maybe coming out next year. I was not wrong with my initial feeling.
This was the right movie all right. We get to see this incredible 3D representation of Spongebob and his friends visiting the world we know on land with about twenty five minutes left in the movie. This is not the main premise of the movie: This is the climax. When they are in the real world, we get pure magic at first, where everything is beautiful, enchanting and breathtaking. It is sure goofy as always, and not all of the jokes are clever, but everything being applied to this new setting is justifiable with the fact that it all seems so captivating and new. The final sequences just have the main characters all running in circles trying to wrap the movie up, and a lot of this (and the movie as a whole) is mindless padding that could be resolved in a cleaner and sharper way, but it was still nice to finally be in this environment that was promised to us heavily.
The concept is witty and a few plot points, that even break the fourth wall, are very smart. Sponge Out of Water just runs amok like Spongebob and Patrick trying to catch jellyfish just way too much. The charm of the original seasons was slightly there, and so were the series advancing CGI moments. A majority of the movie was able to be shaved off. At least the cast is as lovable as always, and it was nice to see the character Plankton be such an important character in a series that often pushes him off to the side as that guy who sometimes tries to steal the Krabby Patty formula when enough episodes pass. The movie is saved by the same cast that has helped make the series still continue. It was also saved by Antonio Banderas being a kooky pirate (and a very entertaining one at that).
Other than that, very little of Sponge Out of Water was out of the comfort zones of the overly safe, tired and mindless results of the latter seasons. For those of us that love the older seasons, we will have a few moments to reflect on and chuckle with when we discuss the film with our friends. For those that like the newer seasons, you may very well be content with this second film. For those that do not like Spongebob Squarepants at all, you should prepare your Advil, because only fans of the show are used to the noise and the chaos that this show instills.