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"THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER"
(2015) (voices of Tom Kenny, Antonio Banderas) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Animated Action: SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends must rise to the surface and combat a villain who has stolen the beloved Krabby Patty formula.
PLOT:
On a remote island, a pirate named Burger-Beard (ANTONIO BANDERAS) risks life and limb to obtain a magic book that chronicles the undersea town of Bikini Bottom, which is centered around a eatery called the Krusty Krab where everyone return again and again to eat the restaurant's signature sandwich, the Krabby Patty. For years, the owner, Mr. Krabs (voice of CLANCY BROWN), has battled with rival restaurateur, Planton (voice of MR LAWRENCE), who has tried every way he knows to obtain the secret Krabby Patty formula.

During one particularly daring heist, Plankton is able to thwart Mr. Krabs' top employees, the good-hearted short-order cook SpongeBob SquarePants (voice of TOM KENNY), and the surly Squidward Tentacles (voice of RODGER BUMPASS) and finally swipe the formula. But just as quick as he gets it, it magically disappears into thin air.

The town believes Plankton and SpongeBob are in cahoots, and Bikini Bottom is thrown into chaos. What's really happened is that Burger-Beard has used the power of the book to nab the formula so he can open the most successful food truck in a nearby resort town above water. It's up to SpongeBob, Plankton, Squidward, Mr. Krabs and their friends, the dim-witted Patrick Star (voice of BILL FAGERBAKKE) and the adventurous squirrel, Sandy Cheeks (voice of CAROLYN LAWRENCE), to reacquire the formula and return Bikini Bottom to order.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
As a film reviewer, I love going to screenings where kids making up the majority of the audience. Why? Because they are THE most honest critics there are. Oh, sure. Kids also forgive a lot. They sit through and find entertaining a LOT of dreck. But if you listen to their comments throughout a movie, they're actually pretty insightful. And the kids that I saw "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" with were spot-on when they grew restless a good half-hour into it and the film had yet to deliver on its promise.

What promise is that? That the beloved animated characters of SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Squidward Tentacles, Sandy Cheeks, Mr. Krabs, and Plankton were finally going to travel from their undersea cartoon world to our live-action world. "When are they gonna get to our world, Daddy?" and "Are they ever gonna come to life, Mommy?" were just a few of the questions posed by the pint-sized Siskels and Eberts.

What they're talking about here is, of course, false advertising. All of the commercials and trailers for this second big-screen adaptation of the hit Nickelodeon series have played up the plot twist that SpongeBob and Co. must come topside in order to do battle with a baddie who has stolen Mr. Krabs' beloved Krabby Patty formula -- a theft that plunges their underwater hometown of Bikini Bottom into apocalyptic chaos. This DOES happen ... er, eventually. I hadn't been timing the movie, but I estimate the switch to live action happens at least a good 45 minutes into the flick. Maybe more. Just as bad, once they're in the real world, they don't really stay there all that long. Again, I didn't have a stopwatch. But the live-action sequences in this film maybe last for 20 or 25 minutes total.

I'm sure doing a full-on, live-action "SpongeBob" movie with only brief animated sections to bookend the film would have been quite expensive. But ... uh ... come on! It's not like Nickelodeon and the purveyors of this franchise don't have boatloads of cash to sink into such a project. And the promise of profit would easily have netted 'em back their investment.

Other than that disappointment, "Sponge Out of Water" is a witty, mostly entertaining movie. Okay, it's more like a full-length episode of the series highlighted by the live action section. But the show has always been a delight to watch with my daughter over the years, and the clever humor, solid character work, and always-welcome running gags and in-jokes continue to put a smile on my face.

And the film DOES have Antonio Banderas as the main antagonist, Burger-Beard, a modern-day scoundrel who fashions himself a pirate. This Captain Crooked uses a magic book (don't ask) to steal the Krabby Patty formula and pass it off as his own as he seeks to build the most profitable mobile food truck business ever. The ever-greedy Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) at first thinks it's his rival, Plankton (voice of Mr. Lawrence), then suspects a conspiracy involving Plankton and his longtime employee SpongeBob SquarePants (voice of Tom Kenny). Regardless, when the aquatic citizens of Bikini Bottom can no longer get their Krabby Patties, madness ensues.

The writers of the movie spend a little too much time expanding on the post-apocalyptic hell that becomes of Bikini Bottom. Then, they devote another 10 or so minutes to a time-travel gag that feels like narrative padding. But when SpongeBob and Co. do make it topside and tangle with Banderas' Burger-Beard, the film jolts to life and becomes something both surreal and entertaining.

"Sponge Out of Water" is just an exercise in fun. There's no deeper meaning to it. Just a lot of nautical nonsense thrown at the map by some creative people who are still in love with their creation that debuted all the way back in 1999, and now counts as fans just as many adults as kids. Count me one of 'em. It's not great, but it still warrants a forgiving 5.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed January 31, 2015 / Posted February 6, 2015


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