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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

SpongeBob Movie

These superpowered jerks are idiots, like a version of
the Avengers with more impulse control, and less angst

dir: Paul Tibbet


School holidays can definitely be a slog for parents. SpongeBob Squarepants movies can be a definite slog too.

School holidays just passed. I took two kids to see this in 3D. They were there voluntarily. Me? Not so much.

It turned out that the two kids weren’t really there by choice either. I thought they were, but they were under the mistaken impression that we’d be watching that other animated movie that came out at the same time called Home.

Home has that commercial where the annoying guy from The Big Bang Theory with Asperger’s plays an alien character that declaims that his hands are in the air like he just doesn’t care. I wonder why I didn’t leap at the chance to watch that one.

Timings weren’t right to see it on that particular Sunday, so instead we saw this. In 3D no less. Cost me nearly $80 fer crying out loud…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s not a cartoon I enjoy that much, so I was never really ever going to love this either, I’m sad to say. When I consider the cartoon riches that are out there at the moment, that I get to enjoy on a regular basis with my daughter and her friends (the short list contains Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Regular Show, Gravity Falls, and that’s keeping it real short), SpongeBob is not really up there.

As much as I respect and adore the work of Tom Kenny, who voices SpongeBob and perhaps a million other characters in cartoons over the last 30 years, best of which at the moment is the Ice King from Adventure Time, it’s definitely not something I love, or even like, or even enjoy on any level.

In fact I can barely tolerate the show. Which is okay; a man’s got to know his limitations. If there’s one thing that’s always bugged me about the show it’s the fixation on the fast food industry that the Krabby Patty represents. Many of the characters work there, including and especially SpongeBob himself, and to me it’s a hop, skip and a stagger away from being a delivery device or normalising scenario intended to herd kids towards their nearest set of golden arches. It never even constitutes a satirical look at the fast food industry, because it’s persistently depicted as a universally desirable good.

I know that sounds like I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this crap, and overcomplicating what is generally a fairly simplistic cartoon, but what else are you going to do when you’re gritting your teeth and watching a cartoon you don’t enjoy?

Well, you spend all your spare intellectual capacity, freed up by not being engaged by what you’re watching, on damning what you’re watching with over-intellectualised and pretentious critiques.

Then you collect them together and put them in a review. Some might consider that a waste of time, others might see it as gleaning a tiny sliver of value from an otherwise dispiriting experience.

I’ve seen enough episodes of SpongeBob to know that this big screen cinematic version, though it contains no David Hasselhoff cameos and therefore isn’t the first time this has happened, is perfectly in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the show. In fact, except for the overarching narrative device, and Antonio Banderas, this is a version of the most common storyline in the show’s entire run.

Plankton, the show’s resident megamaniacal antagonist has tried to steal the formula to the Krabby Patty in virtually every second episode of SpongeBob ever produced. That means there’s something like 300 episodes of Plankton trying to steal the goddamn formula. It’s the show’s equivalent of the coyote never being able to get the roadrunner, or Tom never catching Jerry, or Itchy always killing Scratchy, or everything killing Kenny, you bastards.

Maybe it’s symbolic of existentially never being able to get what you want, the eternal frustration of pursuing the unattainable. Maybe it’s an extension of the myth of Sisyphus rolling that massive rock up the mountain only to have it always roll down again, or Prometheus getting his liver ripped out every day, or Ahab and his whale.

Or maybe it’s just something really, really irritatingly pointless. Every film needs a motivation, as in something that gives a plot momentum to get it moving, and I can’t argue that it’s not in keeping with the spirit of the series. It’s just so very, very uninspired.

The only element that gave me a laugh was how quickly the undersea town of Bikini Bottom falls into chaos once the formula goes missing. Like many American movies that have disasters in them, the represented society falls apart at the drop of a hat, as long as that hat contains the formula.

I found all of this achingly dull yet loud and obnoxious, but at least it was endurable. Out here in the ‘real’ world, in non-animation live action, Antonio Banderas plays a guy called Burgerbeard who has somehow stolen the formula himself with the intention of turning his pirate ship into a food van.

Thus do our alleged heroes have to come into the ‘real’ above water world in order to get back that goddamn formula.

A lot of stuff happens, but nothing of significance, really. There is little that sticks to the mind after watching it. I can’t really imagine that there is a fevered and frantic fanbase that desperately needed another SpongeBob entry, so I can’t even really imagine there’s that much of an audience, even given that the name is recognisable to people.

The name ‘Hitler’ is familiar to people as well, but I don’t imagine a lot of people want to see him open a fast food franchise or do ballet on ice as long as he’s animated.

But I digress. Sure, there is colour and movement, but I don’t recall laughing much, if at all. It’s pretty gentle in that case, I guess perhaps aimed at the younger kiddies (and not bearded curmudgeons in their 40s), but I genuinely failed to see the appeal beyond the noise, the constant noise and lots of colourful movement. These characters are so very dumb that I fail to find myself amused by their antics at nearly any time.

My harshest indictment is that it didn’t really make me laugh or keep me entertained. It looked fine in 3D, but I couldn’t really think of what the 3D really added to the experience, if anything.

Like a hessian sack full of unwanted kittens, maybe SpongeBob should have stayed underwater where he belonged

5 times Patrick the Starfish is possibly the dumbest character in any cartoon ever out of 10

“Welcome to the apocalypse, Mr Squidward, I hope you like leather” – everyone likes leather, what a silly question – The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water