Combustible Celluloid
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With: Antonio Banderas, Slash, (voices) Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Carolyn Lawrence
Written by: Glenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel, based on a story by Stephen Hillenburg, Paul Tibbitt
Directed by: Paul Tibbitt
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and rude humor
Running Time: 93
Date: 02/06/2015

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Team Sponge

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, certain kids' movies are so flat-out weird that they eventually become cult classics for viewers who take pleasure in not being able to quite believe what they're seeing. Some examples are The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Labyrinth (1986). Now comes The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, which could very well join that list. Don't believe me? Check out this plot.

A live-action pirate (Antonio Banderas) fights a huge skeleton to get his hands on an ancient book. Some talking seagulls demand to have the book read, and the pirate reluctantly agrees. The book tells the story of SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) and his pals in Bikini Bottom, and how everyone loves the Krabby Patty sandwiches that SpongeBob cooks at his job at the Krusty Krab restaurant.

The evil Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) once again connives to steal the sandwich's secret formula and nearly succeeds, but while SpongeBob and Plankton struggle over it, it suddenly disappears. The lack of Krabby Patties quickly turns Bikini Bottom into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, in which characters wear leather, studs and chains. Even SpongeBob's best pal Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke) thinks SpongeBob is somehow responsible and tries to turn him in to an angry mob.

SpongeBob and Plankton team up to find the formula, and stumble upon the idea of time travel. We get several very strange time-travel sequences, accompanied by some samples of computer animation and a very unsettling mix of sound effects and music. They end up meeting a kind of space dolphin who has been watching over the planets for thousands of years. Somehow, SpongeBob and Plankton, along with Patrick, Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), Sandy (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), and Mister Krabs (Clancy Brown), end up in the real world (as computer-generated characters), and SpongeBob uses the technique of writing on the storybook pages to turn them all into the superheroes you see on the movie's poster. They then have a big showdown with the pirate.

It's only in this final sequence that the movie becomes a bit too ordinary, doing most of the high-speed action stunts that you see in many other movies these days. The five heroes take turns trying out their super-powers, etc., etc. But, even though it feels longer, the movie runs only 93 minutes and it keeps up a pretty good head of steam for most of the way. As usual in SpongeBob, there are quite a bit of side jokes that don't necessarily further the plot, but that provide laughs when many other movies stop thinking about laughs and start worrying about wrapping things up.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is technically a sequel to a movie that came out 11 years ago, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004). Despite their shared characters, the two movies couldn't feel more different. It's as if this new movie itself were sent to our world from some demented, comical alternate universe. The laughs in SpongeBob tend to come quickly and fade just as quickly. But I suspect that if anyone in the future decides to go back and look at this thing again, they'll see something quite peculiar and offbeat, and perhaps screen it for a bunch of kids-at-heart at some midnight screening.

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