Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? I did, back in 1999 during the world premiere of Spongebob Squarepants. I remember the day vividly; the two episodes (one was completely silent and the other involved Spongebob feeding a hungry mob of anchovies) still make me laugh to this day. Spongebob had become quite the cartoon juggernaut. It’s pretty amazing to see him on the silver screen now in 2015.
Out of Water is quite the experience. Serving up new territory for the yellow square and his buddies, it features a story that sits in the background, allowing for jokes and colorful animation to explode on the screen–and that’s a good thing. There are plenty of sight gags and puns to please some of the adults taking their young ones to the show. The voice cast (all of whom have been with Spongebob for the long haul) all do a good job with the material as is expected.
What I enjoyed most with Out of Water was how silly it was willing to be, going into territory I had only seen on meme websites during my many boring treks into the internet. Like those experiences, this film eventually revealed its true secret: it’s not as funny as you would expect.
Since I consider myself to be in the Spongebob know-how, it was a bit of a disappointment for this sponge-fan to not laugh nearly as much as I would’ve liked. Spongebob’s newest seasons haven’t been as delightful as his first three on Nickelodeon, but his first outing on the big screen was a pleasant surprise.
Unlike the first Sponge-movie, Out of Water loses a lot of steam mainly for resorting to lazy humor. Sure, farts and poop jokes feel at home in Bikini Bottom (pun intended), but Spongebob is a clever show, one that doesn’t rely so much on the potty humor as it does with solid dialogue and the character’s sheer lack of common sense. I don’t mind juvenile humor (that’s what the show was built upon after all so that’s what we all think of with Spongebob and Patrick’s adventures), in fact I wanted it, I expected it–along with plenty to please the lifelong fans.
Out of Water wasn’t the nostalgic trip a film like this should be, and it doesn’t have to be, given that what’s new is fun and intelligent. That just isn’t the case here.
It consistently came across as if the writers weren’t giving this the effort they did fifteen years ago. How many times must I see a trippy (acid-inspired?) sequence before it isn’t funny anymore? Out of Water taught me that it’s twice not third time is the charm. There is no attempt to earn new fans, or to keep the oldest of Sponge-fans intrigued with any sort of clever humor.
As for the superhero antics that are filling all of the film’s marketing, I’m happy to say that while really only taking place in the third act of the film, it is one of the highlights of the experience. The live-action sequences are shot well with a fluidity that lets us see what’s in frame with ease and charm. Director Paul Tibbit (who directed Spongebob’s first seasons on television and his first movie) hasn’t completely lost what made Spongebob’s antics so much fun, but at times I asked myself how close he was to losing that grasp.
Will Spongebob’s latest please diehards? Perhaps not, nor will it convert newcomers–but for some, that might be okay. Out of Water isn’t a terrible time by any stretch of the imagination, but for those of us who remember Spongebob, Patrick (who is sadly lacking for much of the film’s first 2/3’s), Sandy, Squidward, and the rest of the gang way back when they were crudely drawn, this isn’t going to make you laugh nearly as much as those classic episodes you remember.
The tough fact of reviewing comedies is that, one must remember that such a genre relies on one rule: that it must be funny. Humor is the biggest thing Out of Water is missing–and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t try, because it definitely does. Halfway through my experience, I realized that neither myself, nor the groups of children around me had laughed at all during the film’s 93-minute runtime.
Is The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water the great escapist piece of the moment for children across the world? Well, maybe–I can’t really say.
What I can say is that I left with less of a Spongebob smile, and more of a Squidward smug.
Content Guide for The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Violence – Residents of Bikini Bottom aim to sacrifice Spongebob. Characters fight as superheroes against guns and cannons. Any violence seen here is played for laughs.
Language – “Apocalyptic Cesspool” is a favorite.