I first became aware that Nickelodeon was still producing new SpongeBob SquarePants material last year, when I finally made my way through The Legend of Korra. It’s a rare Nickelodeon property that’s still popular with the channel’s target audience so long after its debut. That enduring popularity is why, 11 years after his last big-screen outing, SpongeBob and his friends return in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
Sponge Out of Water kicks off with the pirate Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas) stealing an old book, then reading the book to a group of seagulls. The story tells the tale of SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs and Patrick foiling Plankton’s repeated efforts to steal the formula for the Krabby Patty. During one such effort, the formula disappears into thin air. Er, water. The disappearance quickly leads to Bikini Bottom’s descent into a post-apocalyptic landscape. Their journey involves a time machine that throws them into alternate universes, complete with different styles of animation, and deep inside SpongeBob’s bra where, thanks to a in, which is best described as “Candy Land on acid.” The adventure culminates on a beach, and a battle at a food truck, where SpongeBob and crew are first transformed into 3D characters, then superheroes.
From the TV series to film extensions, SpongeBob SquarePants is inherently silly, and that silliness is what saves the film. The film leans heavily on gags and wordplay aimed at children and parents alike. One running gag deals with Plankton’s inability to say “teamwork,” which comes out in various forms (including one “timebomb”). “Unleash the condiments!” Krabs orders during one battle. “With relish!” SpongeBob replies. You get the idea.
While the character and franchise may not be quite as absorbent and yellow and porous as it was years ago, there’s still plenty to enjoy about that sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. For fans of the series, this film will provide plenty of material to enjoy. And thankfully, at 93 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.