Sunday, 12 April 2015

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (2015) - Movie Review

Ah, SpongeBob SquarePants, that irritatingly cute, yellow and porous friend of children, stoners and meme creators worldwide. While I freely admit to having watched The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie a lot as a kid and played the hell out of its video game tie-in on PS2, I’ve only watched a handful of episodes of the show proper and none of them are all that recent. Chalk it up to mostly sticking to the classic Cartoon Cartoons when I was a kid, but I never really got into them as much as I probably should have. That said, the show has its appeal… through being completely bonkers, even for a kid’s show, and having a more adult edge to its sense of humour on occasion much like the other show creator Stephen Hillenburg worked on: Rocko’s Modern Life. So, a little over a decade after the first film hit cinemas, the promotional campaign behind this latest offering reached our ears and even with my pretty surface interest in the show, I was hyped to see this thing.

The plot: Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) is trying to steal the secret formula for Mr. Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) Krabby Patties, but after a scuffle with SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), the formula is stolen from them both by the pirate Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas). Forced to work together to bring order back to Bikini Bottom, Plankton joins SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs, Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) and Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) as they venture to the surface to recover the formula.

Or, rather, this is the plot as far as the trailer would have audiences believe. The story as shown there only makes up about a third of the overall film, an action that I would call misleading if it wasn’t the most sensible thing to do. Why? Because the sense that the remaining two-thirds don’t make is staggering. Now, while I have bagged out other films in the past for what little sense they make (*ahem*), I oddly don’t have a problem with it here despite how much it feels like three or four scripts for episodes of the show were stitched together with acid-laced dental floss. The first reason for this is that the film doesn’t take itself seriously enough for that to be a genuine issue; hell, there’s a moment in the film that almost feels like an attempt to critic-proof it. The question gets brought up about how SpongeBob and the other are able to breathe on the surface, and then they begin to summarise how they got up there in the first place. It’s as if the writers were actively telling the audience “You want to find logic in the movie where all this is happening? Seriously?” The second reason for this is that, for as many tangents as the story takes itself in, there’s a rather bizarre feeling of cohesion throughout the whole thing. Seemingly random moments from earlier scenes come back to resolve moments in the film’s present, a startling feat considering so many of them feel like they shouldn’t even be in the same release year as each other.

The third reason, and easily the most important of them all, is that this film’s humour is so pervasive that minor things like logic and rationality ultimately don’t matter. Yes, the over-analytical douchebag who takes pride in reading into as much subtext into films as possible is saying that logic doesn’t matter this time around. *SPOILERS* It’s kind of difficult not to laugh at set pieces like the opening epic food fight scene or the superhero chase in the streets, but the constant onslaught of puns and bizarrely written dialogue makes the script feel like a boxer trying to induce punch drunk laughter. It doesn’t hurt that said funny moments are delivered by a damn nice cast of voice actors, all of whom have had several years of practice spouting complete nonsense for the franchise that shows well here; oh, and Antonio Banderas as well, bringing yet another performance just brimming with maniacal glee. Whether their work here, or the film in general, matches up to the show or if it even should match up to it given the backlash towards the show nowadays from its fan base, I honestly can’t say but all I get from this is that it sounds good to me.

That said, though, I can’t help but compare this to the previous SpongeBob film and unfavourably compare it at that; this film’s greatest strength, its care-free need to have fun, is also its greatest fault in this regard. While this film is just pure fun, that film had a far stronger script to back it up. It may have dipped into generic fantasy territory with its main plot, but its core theme of holding onto one’s childhood was surprisingly potent and culminated in what I still consider to be one of the most badass film climaxes I’ve seen with the Twisted Sister parody I’m A Goofy Goober. Nothing in this film really reaches that same level of awe, or at least the warped geeked-out feeling that fills in the hole awe usually resides in within my brain.

Since this is a largely animated film, and we’re nearing the end of this review (I know, I’m sad too), I guess I should talk about the animation quality here and not only is it pretty good across the board, there are some nice varieties of it to be found here as well. We have the higher-quality version of the show’s look with the scenes set in and around Bikini Bottom, we have the computer animated scenes on the surface that genuinely had me fooled at a couple of moments and then we have the trippy and almost psychedelic time travel transitions (Yeah, there’s time travel in this movie too; and intergalactic overseer dolphins!) that will cause more than a few head tilts with just how… I don’t even the sequences can get. There’s also the scene set inside SpongeBob’s mind, and major props to the animation department there for making such a bright and cheery scene that unsettling and kind of creepy; I’d be screaming too, if I had to see all that.

All in all, this movie is a big jumbled mess of something resembling a narrative, but the humour and overall sense of fun that permeate every aspect of the production, from the voice acting to the animation, bizarrely makes up for all that. I can’t say that I prefer this over the first film, but it definitely fits in with what I remember of the show in terms of entertainment value. It gives a feeling of ease and euphoria that will definitely stick with you for a while after watching it… which probably explains why this review is a bit zanier than I usually write. If you like the show in any regard, then chances are you’ll like this one; if you don’t, then I doubt that this will convert you.

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