If there is one cartoon that next to everyone in my generation feels attached to in some way, it’s Spongebob. The perfect alchemy of absurdity and cleverness, this hyperactive sea sponge and his group of friends kept us laughing all through our formative years, to the point where most of us never really outgrow it so much as don’t obsessively watch the episodes anymore because society told us to grow up. Thankfully, we have a chance to harken back to those days with the long overdue sequel to the original 2004 film. Going in, I was expecting a breezy return to a simpler time, but that’s not exactly what I got. In fact, if there was a more accurate title for this movie, it would be The Spongebob Movie: Decent Into Madness, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
The most accurate plot summary of this film would simply be me running around a room while breaking things, but since this is the written word, I’ll try my best. We reunite with the people of Bikini Bottom in what seems like a fairly average day, with Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) whipping out the old WW2 artillery to protect the Krusty Krab’s Krabby Patty formula from Plankton (Mr. Lawrence). However, this attempt proves unsuccessful, and Plankton manages to get his hands on it, and in a tussle with Spongebob, somehow manages to phase it out of existence entirely. Now that Krabby Patties can’t be made, society is thrown into anarchy, and Spongebob with Plankton’s help must find a way to track down the formula and restore order.
Basically, this movie is Spongebob on steroids. Unlike the first movie, which really tried to string things together with something of a story, this is just an hour and a half of utter insanity that just gets crazier, and crazier as it goes on. In the span of about an hour, we cover Time Travel, Interstellar Guardians (yes, space is in the ocean), and because of the leather filled apocalypse, far more BDSM than anything in Fifty Shades of Grey. This overwhelming stimulation drew me in like a lightning rod, I couldn’t take my eyes off this thing. Not just because of the crazy visual places it goes, but because of the gorgeous 2D animation used throughout most of the film, such a rarity these days.
It also helps that most of the jokes really land. Whether it’s because of sheer randomness, a fun meta jab lampooning that this is in fact a movie, or just a well written pun, it’s clear that as scatterbrained as it was, some genuine thought went into this. Sure, it does stoop to some typical bathroom humor every so often, which is purely for the young ones, but it’s not pervasive enough to really be an issue. This movie takes your brain, puts it in a blender, and then turns it upside down, so it could also be that the humor comes from a bit of minor Stockholm syndrome.
The only time the movie really slows down is the much advertised live action segment. This portion does not take up as much of the film as the trailers would suggest, in fact, it’s only about a third but it just dosen’t work. The lightning fast pace of the jokes really dosen’t translate between mediums, and since the whole thing is basically an extended battle with a pirate named Burgerbeard (played by a beautifully hammy Antonio Banderas), it ultimately ends up being a little boring. It dosen’t help that the CGI renderings of the characters just look ugly, and never feel like they’re really meshing with the world. It looks and feels like a bad TV special. However by that point, any brain function you have will be melted anyway, so you’ll probably just enjoy it also.
Sponge Out of Water is essentially a feature length version of a short film made for a motion simulator ride at Universal Studios. It’s relentlessly hyperactive, gloriously trippy, and above all, just plain funny. It may not be quite as clever as the glory days of the show, or the first movie for that matter, but while watching it, none of that will be coming to mind anyway. As far as off switches for the brain go, this is just about the best thing out there right now.