The trailer for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water might not want to tell you this, but this is primarily an animated movie. There isn’t a lot of live-action footage, and in reality that live-action portion of the movie only takes about 30 minutes of screen time, if that. Most of the film feels like a feature-length episode of the SpongeBob SquarePants television show that just happens to include a lengthy sequence taking place in the real world.
We’re dropped under the sea more or less assuming that we’re already pretty sold on the entire concept of SpongeBob SquarePants. The lead is an annoying talking sponge named SpongeBob (voice of Tim Kenny). He works as a chef for the greedy Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), at a restaurant called The Krusty Krab. His best friend is a starfish, Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke). At the restaurant, the main item sold is the Krabby Patty, which everyone loves. A competitor named Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) wants to steal its secret formula. Many episodes are devoted to Plankton trying and failing to steal the aforementioned formula.
The film begins just like that. Plankton is the villain and he tries to steal the formula. But, out of nowhere, it vanishes. This turns the town into an anarchist society, because without Krabby Patties, there is no order. Soon enough, it’s up to SpongeBob and Plankton to team up in order to figure out where it went. Meanwhile, there’s a meta narrative in which a pirate named Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) reads the story we’re watching to some talking seagulls.
This is the second SpongeBob SquarePants movie that’s come to cinemas, and it’s … basically just as good as the first one. In the end, it all comes down to whether or not you like SpongeBob SquarePants. If you do, then here’s a long episode that features plenty of your favorite talking sponge. If you don’t, then this is a torturous episode in which an annoying talking sponge annoys everyone by being as annoying as possible. There are some people for whom SpongeBob acts as a headache inducer. Those people are not going to see this movie anyway. This is for the fans.
The aim is to throw as many jokes — so many of them silly, surreal, and random — at us that it can, hoping that at least most of them hit. You already either know whether or not you like the comedy that the SpongeBob SquarePants team has to offer, or you’ve managed to avoid the series up to to this point. In the case of the former, you already know if you’re going to like this. For those in the latter category, watch an episode or two on TV first. It’ll be cheaper and take up less time than jumping right into the movie.
I’m guessing that most of the people watching are here to see how SpongeBob and co. fair when jumping into the live-action setting, effectively becoming an Avengers-style team of superheroes in order to stop the villain. Those people might find the plot a bit too slow and meandering, effectively taking almost an hour to get to the part the trailers are hyping. There’s even a whole time travel segment in here! It’s like waiting for the volcano to erupt in Pompeii; we know what we want to see, so all the waiting — good cinema or not — feels like filler.
The theme of the last SpongeBob SquarePants movie was that being a kid is really cool. This time around, we’re aiming slightly higher. This movie is all about teamwork, which makes sense given the Avengers-style climax. SpongeBob has to convince his friends, enemies, and friends who become enemies that teaming up is good because it gets things done. There’s one grating song about teamwork thrown in here, and SpongeBob and Plankton probably say “teamwork” — or “tee-am-work,” as Plankton pronounces is — about 75 times throughout the movie, so don’t be afraid that you might miss this carefully hidden theme.
You already know if you are going to like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. If you like the cartoon, you’ll like the movie. It’s like a long episode that happens to include a lengthy live-action sequence near the end. It throws lots of jokes at you, many of them work, and it’s certainly not lacking in imagination or energy. If SpongeBob SquarePants is something of which you are a fan, this movie is worth seeing.