Full of slapstick and humorous puns, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water stays true to the entertainment given by the popular children’s television show for years; however, the live-action element thrown on the characters, the story, and the audience, does not fit quite right.
From directors Paul Tibbitt – longtime writer and producer of the series – and Mike Mitchell, who directed the film’s live-action segments, the comedy that combines live-action, 2D, and 3D animation doesn’t lend itself to true character development, drastic changes for Bikini Bottom or the series, or further depth of the SpongeBob universe. Instead, the film plays like a longer, similarly entertaining episode of the children’s series. That said, the issue arises in the attempt to incorporate the 3D animation and live-action elements into what could have remained a 2D animated film.
The premise of the film is simple: Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) once again attempts to steal the secret formula of the Krusty Krab’s famous Krabby Patty. However, the detailed plan goes awry when – after the Krusty Krab goes through an intense lockdown – the secret formula simply disappears from the fingers of both Plankton and SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny). Bikini Bottom is thrust into a Krabby Patty-starved apocalypse. With each of his friends succumbing to the apocalyptic madness, Spongebob has little choice but to team up with Plankton to find the secret formula and restore order to Bikini Bottom. Spliced into the 2D animated story are live-action segments starring Burgerbeard (Antonio Banderas), who reads from an enchanted book to a talking and singing group of seagulls (Eric Bauza, Tim Conway, Eddie Deezen, Rob Paulsen, Kevin Michael Richardson, April Stewart, Cree Summer, Billy West, Carlos Alazraqui, and Nolan North).
Back underwater, SpongeBob, Plankton, and Karen the Computer Wife create a time machine out of a photo booth housed in the empty main room of a far-off taco house. Armed with the newly created machine, SpongeBob and Plankton travel to the upcoming Thursday, the Illuminati-esque cosmos-viewing window of Bubbles the Talking Dolphin, and finally to the moments before the secret formula disappeared. With what is believed to be the formula, SpongeBob and Plankton return triumphantly to the present time, only to discover that SpongeBob had grabbed the decoy bottle Plankton had attempted to use on the Indiana Jones-inspired pressure plate under the secret formula. Live-action and animation collide when SpongeBob’s highly-tuned sense of smell catches the scent of a Krabby Patty, subduing the crazed apocalyptic mob previously bent on sacrificing him to the Sandwich Gods. SpongeBob and his team – now including Mr. Krabs, Patrick, Sandy, Squidward, and Plankton hidden in his sock – find themselves with no option but to venture to the surface, magically endowed with breathing abilities by the sudden interference of Bubbles the Talking Dolphin. The ensuing confrontations between the team – almost a parody of the heroes of Big Hero 6 – and the notorious Burgerbeard constitute the majority of what is left of the film.
The madcap comedy-packed film maintains little predictability; the audience knows what eventually must happen in the end, but there is little idea of how the courageous aquatic heroes will get there. The story is quick, holding pace throughout much of the animated sequences. However, the live-action sequences cutting into the 2D animation create a jarring pattern of stopping the pace and an off-kilter tone. Before the necessary confrontation of villain and heroes, the live-action segments felt more like a separate film within a film, smashed together in the hope of consistency. While the writing and story of the live-action segments provide entertainment and some continuation of plot, these small interconnected scenes seem hardly necessary except to lengthen the film, which ran at only 93 minutes. The following combination of live-action and well-done texturizing of CGI bring the pace of the animation and the live-action segments to equal speed, giving the audience scenes that actually feel fitting.
The various forms of animation – including 2D, 3D CGI, and even stop-motion – look clean on the screen, the writing and story maintain the classic slapstick and punny entertainment of the show, and the acting – live and vocal – holds great comedic timing. An easy and simple entertainment for children, an amalgamation of more mature jokes and references for older fans, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is zany, trippy, and a good laugh for the whole family.
Edited by: Morgan Stradling