Sunday, February 8, 2015

'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water' review

As a kid born in the late 1990's, I grew up on Nickelodeon and especially SpongeBob Squarepants. The popular kids show began in 1999 and was an immediate hit, creating a massive media empire that included theme park rides, clothing, merchandise and even a successful 2004 film. The show has continued on well past its glory days, and now, the show's original creators are back for a 3D comedy adventure that is bizarre, absurd, and disappointing in equal measure. Swapping the show's charm and hilarity for a wacky aimlessness, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water has moments of inspiration, but lands with a resounding thud.

The SpongeBob Movie is about something, but I can't say I can really describe its tedious randomness in a paragraph. As usual, the Krabby Patty secret formula is in danger of being stolen by Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) and SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) has to stop him. Only this time, the disappearance of the secret formula causes society to breakdown and the apocalypse is unleashed upon Bikini Bottom. To save the town, SpongeBob and Plankton have to create a time machine to go back to the day that they caused a disaster. They meet a futuristic talking dolphin along the way, but end up messing up again. Somehow, the recipe ends up with a pirate (Antonio Banderas) on the surface and the gang has to become superheros on land to save the secret formula.

If you've ever watched an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, you should have an idea of whether or not you'll find this movie tolerable or not. The show's detractors will obviously dislike this movie, but I can't honestly imagine many fans of the show enjoying this messy flick. The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie from 2004 is one of my favorite animated movies, with strong musical numbers, a entertaining story, and goofy, hysterical comedy. I was hoping for more of the same with this updated SpongeBob flick, but unfortunately, I didn't get it. The story is pretty stale, the comedy is trippy and baffling and the film is just sort of boring on the whole.

The first SpongeBob movie worked because it had a strong story. That is truly the key with all good animated movies. A kids movie can have fart jokes and blatant appeals to their young audiences, but if there's a good heart and a compelling story, parents will find something to enjoy. Think classic films like Toy Story 3, Beauty and the Beast or The LEGO Movie. On the other hand, you have movies like Free Birds and The Nut Job, that nobody but the youngest of children will be engaged by.

For anyone over the age of ten, The SpongeBob Movie is downright inaccessible- unless you're on a heavy dose of psychedelic drugs, you won't find much to like about this movie. The story is scatter-brained and bizarre, with only a cliched framework and not much else. Some of the humor is classic SpongeBob, but the rest of it is odd and feels like an inside joke between the filmmakers. I just didn't find the film to be that funny, and it was enjoyable only in spurts.

And unlike the original SpongeBob film, there's no sense of big-screen grandeur, outside of the film's final act that features a mix of CGI and live action. The first film had real danger, real stakes and a clear, interesting narrative that was easy for everyone to follow. This one really feels like an extended episode that was pumped up with whatever wacky thing the creators could think of. It's an amalgamation of pure weirdness and it didn't work.

As usual, the characters are infinitely appealing and likable. SpongeBob is simply a great character, and the show has always worked because of the supporting cast. Plankton plays a heavy role in this one and although Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) and Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) get a significant amount of screen time, I couldn't help but feel that many of the characters were left with little to do. Larry the Lobster isn't even in the film and Gary, Pearl and Mrs. Puffs barely even have cameos. It's sort of disappointing as a long-time fan of a show to see many characters get little screen time in the film.

While this film does play it incredibly safe with its story, the final act of this film is visually stunning and the most ambitious thing that the show has ever done. And in some ways, it does redeem the film. The mix of CGI and live action works really well for this movie and the beach atmosphere is perfect. I also liked the action and humor that the superhero theme brought and it just had this sense of fun that the rest of the film didn't. It felt fresh, which and the rest of the movie didn't.

In the end, The SpongeBob Movie will undoubtedly start a new franchise (the film pulled in an insane amount of money this weekend), but it obviously won't appeal to fans of the original series. With a more focused and unique narrative, Sponge Out Of Water might have been something special, because of its fantastic visuals and atmosphere. I loved the look and feel of this movie. Unfortunately, I just never got into it and that made the film a tedious experience.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                              (5.7/10)

Image Credits: YouTube, We Got This Covered, Cartoon Brew, Fat Movie Guy, Rama Screen

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