Genre: Live Action/CG Animation
Director: Paul Tibbitt, Mike Mitchell
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Christopher Backus, Slash
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/SpongebobMovie
Opening Day: 5 March 2015
Synopsis: SpongeBob SquarePants, the world’s favorite sea dwelling invertebrate, comes ashore to our world for his most super-heroic adventure yet.
David Hasselhoff doesn’t return to give our undersea heroes a leg up (there’s a pun intended for those who had seen their first big-screen adventure slightly more than a decade ago), but it seems that SpongeBob and his buddies Patrick, Squidward, and Sandy as well as Plankton are perfectly ok to write their own fates (that’s another pun for this latest movie, in case you’re wondering). In place of Hasselhoff, Antonio Banderas guest stars as a curmudgeon pirate named Burger-Beard who steals a mysterious book from a desert island whose pages somehow contain the fates of our beloved cartoon characters, creating the perfect excuse for a “sponge out of water” story.
We’re not quite sure the reason why, but there seems to be a certain disdain for the title character, his best friend (and the dumbest starfish around) Patrick and the Nickelodeon TV series in general among those who are not fans of the pineapple-dwelling sea creature. Admittedly, Spongebob’s brand of maniacal humour isn’t universal, but we found his cheerfully random jokes, his tongue-in-cheek references, his idiotic cheerfulness and even his infamous cackle to be a whole ball of zany fun. Yes, everything you loved (or hated) about the TV series is present in this big-screen outing, and it probably comes as no surprise (and in fact a fair deal of comfort for fans) that the story is by ‘SpongeBob’ veteran Paul Tibbett, who also directs, and its very creator Stephen Hillenburg.
Despite what the marketing materials may promise, a large part of the movie actually takes place in the computer-generated world of Bikini Bottom. Much of the plot follows closely to the running themes of the TV series. Spongebob still works in the underwater burger joint, Krusty Krab, where he prepares the mega-popular Krabby Patties. Right opposite the Krusty Krab is the establishment run by the failed restaurateur Plankton, who is still after Mr Krabs’ secret formula for them Krabby Patties. His latest attempt begins with a food fight and ends with the disappearance of the formula itself, which triggers the tyranny of the mob and plunges the underwater Eden into apocalyptic chaos.
True to the nature of the TV series, the story unfolds in a rather scattershot manner, zipping from skit to skit while trying to build a coherent over-arching feature-length narrative about them. But the ceaselessly buoyant energy of these skits more than compensates, ranging from a hilarious zinger involving the use of a “tiny piano” to accompany some tiptoeing to hysterical musical interludes contributed by Pharrell Williams and NERD bandmates Chad Hugo and Shay Haley to accompany Plankton’s journey inside Spongebob’s cotton-candy mind as well as his over-eagerly earnest attempt to explain the concept of teamwork to Plankton. And if you’re thinking that it sounds no more than an extended episode of the series, well rest assured that it is in fact sillier and crazier and all the better for it.
The proof of how entertaining the 2D animation is in and of itself comes when our characters hit land to confront Burger-Beard and retrieve the secret Krabby Patties formula. There, finding themselves outsized at first, they undergo a miraculous transformation from tiny toons to buffed-up superheroes, culminating in a noisy and frankly overblown finale which detracts from the charm of the TV series in the first place. Yes, it’s a very busy real-world excursion for Spongebob and his friends, but one only wishes that it were as clever or as imaginative as it was back under the sea. Banderas hams it up the best he can, but even his devilish charm can’t quite conceal a distinct depreciation of wit and verve.
But even if the decision to once again bring the non-animated world into that of the animated proves to be a misstep this time round, there is enough wacky but good-natured charm in Spongebob’s time in Bikini Bottom to make for a zippily entertaining time. Yes, all the elements that made the animated series such an enduring success are all here – the wordplays and sight gags, the bright colours and even the occasional subversive humour and pop-culture references for adults – and though one may argue that it doesn’t further the TV series, it certainly does offer a chance to indulge in it for longer. Kids will love it, fans will dig it, and for everyone else? Well, you’re best advised to look for another fish-out-of-water story.
(You're either a fan or you're not - but if you are, no matter what age, this CG animated/ live-action hybrid of the Nicklodeon TV series will tickle you with its zany, zippy and irrepressibly cheerful demeanor)
Review by Gabriel Chong