Cinema Reviews

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water Review


In best SpongeBob fashion, this movie is so surreal, it feels like being on a trip, induced by some mind-altering drug (or Krabby Patties if you’ve had any). An explosion of noise, colour and SpongeBob’s hysterical laughter, it has its characters chasing each other across the screen, tumbling from on absurd scenario into the next.

The premise is familiar: Mr. Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) arch-nemesis Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) is at it again and this time it’s all out food war. Having exhausted his funds to purchase a bomber plane, a tank and a giant robot, Plankton attacks the Krusty Crab with projectiles of gherkin and mayo to obtain the secret Krabby Pattie formula but it is not to be: the formula simply vanishes. End of story. However, the end is only the beginning. On a small, exotic island somewhere in the real world, a pirate called Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) obtains a mysterious book. It holds the story of Bikini Bottom and Burger Beard agrees to read it to a flock of talking seagulls who threaten to unleash a literal (decidedly not virtual) shitstorm unless the pirate brings the story to a more satisfying end than “…and then the formula vanished and Bikini Bottom succumbed to savagery”. Unlikely though it may seem, all of this will make sense, you just need to bear with the movie for its 92 minutes (which may prove a challenge for some). Back in Bikini Bottom, the Krusty Crab has run out of Krabby Patties and, with the secret formula gone, no one can make new ones. Without their daily triple-fix (morning, lunchtime and evening – hints at the recent obsession with fast-food joints surely cannot be a coincidence), Bikini Bottom’s normally friendly inhabitants quickly turn into a mob of raging addicts on the mother of all comedowns (that annoying recent coinage “hangry” doesn’t even begin to cover it), donning Mad-Max-style leather and beating the hell out of tires. With SpongeBob’s friends Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and Squidward (Roger Bumpass) all gone feral, Spongbob and Plankton realise that some serious teamwork (a term, Plankton struggles to so much as pronounce) is required to get things back to what they were. The plan: build a time machine and go back to the point in time when the formula vanished. It isn’t that simple, however, as the question of why the formula vanished in the first place remains unanswered. The solution lies on a beach in the real world, in a magical book stolen by a greedy and evil pirate, and SpongeBob and his friends need to follow the scent of Krabby Patties out of the water and into battle. In the process, they may or may not cause the destruction of Saturn and Uranus and lose a frustrated dolphin his day job (yes, this is a Douglas Adams reference and a brilliant one at that).

The SpongeBob Movie is predominantly two things: utterly bonkers and delightfully meta. It is a story about the power of stories and about familiar SpongeBob themes like friendship and teamwork. Selfishness, we are reminded, does not win anyone any Krabby Patties. The lack of narrative structure is an excuse for all sorts of random occurrences, wild goose chases, and general mayhem, orchestrated by an equally crazy soundtrack of musical numbers, songs (courtesy of Pharrell Williams), epic orchestra pieces and an extended rap battle. If this was anything but SpongeBob, the thin plot would be a distinct disadvantage. It is to director Tibbit’s credit that he doesn’t even try for any kind of seriousness but instead allows the film to revel in its anarchic madness. Further special credit is due to Antonio Banderas who does not shy away from even t­he silliest of moments.

At times, the film’s 92 minutes feel overloaded and adult viewers in particular may yearn for a few quieter moments. With kids as its primary target audience, adults will nonetheless enjoy the multiple cultural references and the script’s cleverer puns. As long as you suspend your disbelief (and that completely) and prepare for madness, you’ll be fine.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water opens in cinema across the UK on 27th March. For its UK release four of the seagulls have been re-voiced by Stacey Solomon, Alan Carr, Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee, although whether or not that was really necessary is a matter of conjecture.

Anne Korn

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