Monday, February 9, 2015

"The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water": What Took So Long?

Now In Theaters
It’s kinda hard to believe that SpongeBob has been around for sixteen years.  Given that extremely long durability to its existence, especially for a children’s show, it’s even harder to believe that it took ten years from the first feature film for SpongeBob to get a sequel.  And in the midst of all the Oscar hype and controversy about a certain film coming out on Valentine’s weekend (*shudder*), I thought it might be nice to revisit a friend from my childhood.  So, does SpongeBob retain his loveable charm after all these years?  The answer is most assuredly yes.

If you were afraid that your childhood would be ruined when you saw Spongebob and pals CG animated on a human beach in the trailer, you can lay your fears to rest as that only takes up the final third of the film, and even then is used to great effect.  The story begins, however, in good old 2D cartoon Bikini Bottom, where Plankton is once again trying to get his hands on the secret formula for the Krabby Patty.  In mid-heist, the formula magically disappears, leaving SpongeBob and Plankton as the only witnesses to its disappearance.  When SpongeBob defends Plankton from the ensuing mob, everyone assumes he has teamed up with Plankton to steal the formula.  And so, SpongeBob and Plankton must actually team up to find the formula and clear their names.

It’s a refreshing touch to see that Nickelodeon didn’t rest on their laurels and make Plankton the villain yet again.  It takes the film away from being simply an extended episode and fits Plankton’s journey into a character arc that compliments him nicely.  And in the process, the film also retains the humor of the show while pulling gags that would be difficult to pull off in the show’s limited timeframe.  Take, for instance, Plankton’s inability to say the word “teamwork.”  In the show, you could fit that in maybe once or twice in an episode, but here it is reused in various permutations to demonstrate Plankton’s character development.  And it remains consistently funny throughout.

However, to say that the film is consistently funny doesn’t mean that it hits all the right notes all the time.  This is SpongeBob after all, so the humor is going to be fairly hit or miss.  For every scene featuring a time-traveling space dolphin named Bubbles (the film’s hilarious high note), there are strings of bad puns that only inexperienced children will think clever.  And yet, the bad jokes never get so frequent as to be tiresome; you can just groan and move on because the film is paced so quickly.  This works especially well in the final third of the film, where the 3D animation effects enable the kinds of gags that the show’s scale wouldn’t permit, particularly when SpongeBob and company transform into Avengers-style superheroes with some hilarious powers.

Overall, I enjoyed Sponge Out Of Water, though I recognize that one’s mileage may vary given the source material.  As you consider taking a loved one to a movie date this Valentine’s weekend, think about seeing the wacky adventures of a talking sponge, as it will likely be better than what’s going to top the box office.

Did the first SpongeBob movie tickle your fancy?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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