Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It’s Sponge-Worthy, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
OK, OK, I was two weeks late seeing this, I apologize, the weather has been rough and maybe, just maybe, I was catching up on grown-up movies from 2014 that weren’t actually released until 2015. (That is totally cheating in my book, and you filmmakers are very lucky that I don’t get a vote in the Academy Awards.)

Now, I grew up way before Mr. SquarePants hit the scene, but as an adult, I’ve always admired the TV show’s sensibility. So much of children’s media talks down to the audience; this is not the case with our yellow absorbent friend. His series has generally been super-smart (even when it’s dumb), proudly weird, and just a little bit subversive in the best possible way. And the creators still managed to work in positive messages without sacrificing any of the goofball humor.

The first SpongeBob SquarePants Movie accomplished all this on a grander scale than ever before. As for the second film, well… it mostly does! Pretty much!

My friend Steve and I saw the first flick together, so we absolutely had to meet up to see this one. I was shocked when Steve told me the original was released in 2004. Had that much time really gone by?

SpongeBob and Patrick hit the beach.
So, in 2015, SpongeBob isn’t nearly the cultural phenomenon he was a decade ago. In the last movie, we were treated to guest voices by Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson. This time we’ve been downgraded to Antonio Banderas and Tim Conway. And the movie begins with some basic background information about all the main characters. Wow, are there really kids out there who don’t know the complex relationships involving Mr. Krabs, Plankton, Squidward, and the rest? I hate to think it, but it’s probably true.

Also, the filmmakers seem to be bowing to modern marketing pressures by featuring a gimmick (an extended live-action sequence) and presenting the movie in 3-D. Neither seems necessary here nor particularly well carried out.

Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick, natch.
And anyway, the live action “hook” has been oversold. You know how in It’s a Wonderful Life, you think that a whole lot of a movie is George Bailey seeing what the world would be like without him? But then when you actually sit down to watch it again, all that Clarence stuff is a pretty short sequence at the end? It’s basically the same deal here. The movie is about 2/3 done before our favorite quadrilateral-slacked sponge finally breaches the ocean’s surface.

Out of water, the characters are done in a sort of Claymation style, but it’s not particularly high quality. The real world they’re plopped into also seems a bit chintzy. There’s some silly superhero stuff—come on Spongey, you’re better than that! And for some reason, the jokes seem to flounder (pun intended) in the live-action scenes. Instead of the truly special something that is our pal SpongeBob, this segment felt like just another kids’ movie.

As for the 3-D, save the surcharge. There is almost no real popping-out-at-you stuff.

Thankfully, the majority of this movie is in glorious two-dimensional animation deep underwater, where SpongeBob clearly belongs. Down there, the jokes are fast, furious, clever, and corny. There are some twisted, very funny bits, including Bikini Bottom turning into a Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic world when the secret formula for Krabby Patties is lost.

All the original voice actors are here. Show creator Stephen Hillenberg co-wrote the story, but unlike the first film, he did not co-write the screenplay or direct. That may account for the slight drop in quality. Still, there are an awful lot of laughs, a solid take-home message regarding teamwork, even with your enemies (and we get a fun teamwork song written by those funny TV females, Garfunkel and Oates), Antonio Banderas dresses up as a pirate, and… aw come on… it’s SpongeBob! I defy anyone in your family not to smile.

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