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The Long Con in 'The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water'

Somehow this surreal and crazy story about a sponge living in a place called “Bikini Bottom” with his starfish best friend works.

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Director: Paul Tibbitt
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Paul Tibbitt, Bill Fagerbakke, Billy West, Rodger Bumpass, Dee Bradley Baker, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Tim Conway, Eddie Deezen, Cree Summer, Carlos Alazraqui, Eric Bauza, Rob Paulsen, April Stewart, Nolan North, Kevin Michael Richardson
Length: 92 minutes
Studio: Nickelodeon/ Paramount
Year: 2015
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2015-06-02

I first saw The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water in Argentina. There's something decidedly surreal about watching Antonio Banderas, a native Spanish speaker, delivering his lines in English and then dubbed into Spanish. That said, the story was so accessible, fun and interesting that in any language the movie is irresistible.

The plot revolves around the same surreal landscape of Bikini Bottom and its pineapple-dwelling main denizen Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) as he fights off yet another attempt by Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) to steal the secret recipe to the famous Krabby Patty, as invented by Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown). Meanwhile above the surface, a pirate named Burger Beard (Banderas) reads the story aloud to his surrounding throng of talking seagulls.

What follows is as insanely crazy as the rest of the Spongebob stories from the television show (which kicked off in 1999) and the first movie (which, believe it or not, released in 2004, a full 11 years before this film). The already weird (yet still kid-friendly) themes of the show are amplified here as giant robots and time machines take center stage. As the apocalypse (spawned by a burger shortage) hits, the denizens of Bikini Bottom go full on Mad Max, with spiked leather and riots while fires break out all over town… which, I remind you, is underwater. Talking space dolphins, an Avengers-like Superhero team, Pink Floyd references and a visit to the sugar-coated brain of Spongebob himself all add to the weirdness.

In this age of omnipresent (and much cheaper) CGI in animated films, it’s impressive and refreshing to see a movie that is almost entirely hand-drawn like this one. That said, the live action scenes (which prominently feature an over-the-top Banderas) are some of the funniest of the film and are enhanced by CGI characters and effects in scenes that must be seen to be believed.

This is the appeal of Spongebob in general and this 2015 film is no exception. Anything and everything can happen (and probably will). The skills of the writers (many of whom have recently returned from the early seasons of the show) and director Paul Tibbit are best seen in the visualization of the crazy, crazy world of Spongebob and the invention of the most hilarious instances possible, with or without any logical explanation of these occurrences. In fact, the less logic, often, the better.

Spongebob and his friends (and erstwhile enemies) invade the real world (and are suddenly CGI rendered). The gang becomes a hilarious pastiche of the Avengers. Spongebob and Plankton time travel and create convenient paradoxes. Banderas engages in a Ray Harryhausen-esque swordfight with a skeleton. The entire film pulls the metafiction card as often as possible. In fact the entire film feels a lot like a team of funny writers sat around and said “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if…” and finished that sentence in every crazy way possible.

That said, the story is told so well in animation, directing and dialogue, not to mention interesting (if impossible) situations, that the movie works almost in spite of its craziness.

The Blu-Ray packaging promises to be packed with extras, however the copy I received for review did not contain any bonus features. This could have been a factory issue or a bare bones release for the reviewer (which would be a bad move).

That said, regardless of the bonus features, the feature film is well worth seeing and a lot of fun both for the target audience kids and the self-aware, pop-culture enchanted adults who brought them to the theater (or bought them the Blu Ray). In live action, CGI and hand-drawn animation, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water looks and sounds great and makes for a very good time with or without the kids. There may be no good reason for such a surreal and crazy story about a sponge living in a place called “Bikini Bottom” with a starfish as a best friend to be quite this funny or endearing. Somehow, even after over a decade and a half, this still works.


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