Well, if you wanted a feature-length episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, here you go.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’s advertising — and title, for that matter — hinged mostly on the scenes where SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) and crew are on the beach in CGI, and that’s a little deceptive as they spend only a long denouement on dry land, about 25 minutes out of 93.
The real plot of the movie is divided into rough thirds. The pirate from the series’ opening theme is re-cast as Captain Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), a greedy swashbuckler with an amphibious food truck and reality-warping powers which he uses to steal the secret recipe to Mr. Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) krabby patties, famously addictive in Bikini Bottom. Upon the recipe’s seemingly magical disappearance, the town is thrown into Mad Max-style dystopian chaos, with the acolytes pursuing the last two creatures to lay hands on the recipe — SquarePants and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence). The duo escape through time, and their time-traveling shenanigans make up the main body of the movie. After that segment is over, the whole town embarks on a long journey to confront Burger Beard.
It feels slimy to not call this movie out for reneging on so many of its specific promises, but Sponge Out of Water shows folks what they came to see. While most of the series isn’t coherent enough to draw a full movie from, this film’s journey is a good length, well-paced and always entertaining. The potty humor is still present — the toilet paper sticks to the extra-dimensional dolphin’s fin just a touch too long — but most of the movie is sideways enough that it avoids descending into predictability.
For what it is, the movie is a good-sized barrel of laughs. The time travel scenes are huge trips, and the story is generic enough that the film can play with many storytelling tropes — and play it does, adding to the long list of things small children won’t appreciate about this movie.
What the shady advertising really speaks to is how much the studio wanted to emphasize the land scenes and how much the movie is aimed at small children. This seems ill-advised and greed-driven. For one thing, the series is almost 16 years old, and for another, high teenagers and adults almost always enjoy things more than a pre-teen audience. The movie’s actual aim at older viewers is backed up by the long-form Mad Max and Back to the Future references and Slash cameo, which was left on the editing room floor.
It’s a movie to go and see either way, and should mean a thankful end to American Sniper’s three-week run of box office dominion. But if you have the choice of taking your children to a mid-afternoon showing or sneaking a doobie in to a 10 or 11 curtain, go with the latter.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. I like to think I don’t get it wrong often, but I gotta go back on American Sniper. That movie was awful. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter when I can be bothered to make one, and shoot questions to reelentropy@ .