There’s something comfortingly familiar and yet frustratingly unambitious about SpongeBob’s latest cinematic outing. All the usual hallmarks are there: it’s cute and unashamedly goofy, the roster of characters are exactly as you might remember them and the oddball plot rambles along in the haphazard way we’ve come to know and love, peppered with the occasional sharp point of satire and parody. The problem is, the story you’re expecting – the one explicitly laid out in the trailers – takes nearly an hour to arrive, as does the eye-catching 3D manifestation of Bikini Bottom’s finest in the real world – and then is done and dusted in about twenty minutes.
The story concerns yet another attempt to steal the secret formula for making Krabby Patties but, for once, Plankton isn’t the culprit. SpongeBob is forced to betray his friends and team up with his arch-nemesis to find the real culprit and save Bikini Bottom from descending into post-apocalyptic anarchy permanently.
Framed by a live action narration by Burgerbeard (Antonio Banderas) and his cadre of Seagulls, this is a movie which stays well within its comfort zone. It may not succeed in broadening the appeal of the shrill-voiced yellow hero but for those who are (or were) fans, it’ll deliver a fuzzy warm feeling of nostalgia. Most of the movie is done in the traditional animated style of SpongeBob although it makes good use of the gimmickry of 3D without compromising the design of the denizens and landscapes of Binkini Bottom.
Irreverent and absurd, there’s not a single frame of this film which takes itself seriously. From the trademark freewheeling randomness of the jokes, to the unapologetically sincere streak of sentimentality running through the whole thing, it may not be ground-breaking but it’s great fun. Banderas in particular seems to be having a ball here, hamming it up gloriously as the inexplicably motivated pirate/ food truck owner while the rest of the main cast of characters all get their moments to shine. Yes, the trailer spoils most of the best gags and there are times when the straightforward plot is stretched perilously thin but just when you think the wheels are about to fall off, the movie pulls a bizarre dolphin-ex-machina and everything’s right again, in a goofy goober sense at least.
Frothy, fun and undemanding, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” is a pleasant enough way to entertain the kids for an hour and a half but if you’re looking for an inspired and sustained SpongeBob spoof of Superhero team-up movies, you’re in for a long wait and a short disappointment.