Wed. Jan 19th, 2022

Ever since Stephen Hillenburg stepped off as the showrunner of “SpongeBob Squarepants,” Nickelodeon’s multi-million dollar animated television series has been a greasy spoon without him. But now, in 2015, he’s thankfully returned to take charge once again with the sequel to 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” with “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” a follow-up that offers an equal bundle of undersea giddy foolishness. It is, generally, a return to form for fans who, like myself, only care for the first three seasons and the first feature film. It’s also one of the trippiest and most bizarre animated kids’ films to come of the Hollywood studio system in years, (Think 1971’s “Willy Wonka” boat/tunnel scene). The new film soaked up $15 million domestically this Friday and is estimated to take the week at number one with a well-earned $52 million, causing the The Wachowskis’ sci-fi space opera “Jupiter Ascending” to plummet. To boot, Mr. SquarePants’ second feature film managed to finally remove Eastwood’s biopic war drama “American Sniper” from the top spot to No. 2 after holding it for a four-week run.

When Plankton’s evil plot to once again steal the Krabby Patty secret formula is foiled, another sea-roaming adversary (voiced by the super Antonio Banderas) steps in to abduct Bikini Bottom’s greasy, delectable treasure for himself. Leaving the underwater citizens in a apocalyptic Mad-Max-esque uproar bent on rampage in part of ill-supplied cravings for burgers, it’s up to Spongebob and Plankton to pursue the bandit and take back the recipe themselves, if only they can do it in time to save their world from ravenous, barbaric barnacle heads. Along the way they float through time, meet a extra-terrestrial dolphin named “Bubbles” who (in the future) oversees all of space as some type of time-lord (this is by far the most absurdly funny gag in the film), and get trapped in one of Spongebob’s molasses candy-sweet dreamscapes. [pullquote align=”right”]The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water’ managed to, for the first time in over 10 years, make me love SpongeBob again.[/pullquote]

With some reservations, “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge of Water” is mostly a success. Firstly, the marketing campaign is a big, fat lie. The advertised 3D live-action CGI segments only take up an inconsequential 15 minutes tops. The rest is traditionally hand-drawn, 2D animation. A small minority will be saddened to hear that (most will be alleviated), but this is one of the few times I was completely relieved by a misrepresentation of what I thought the film would be. Truthfully, the live-action crawl is plodding, dull, and gimmicky. Even when Squidward starts using his mediocre clarinet playing as a shock-wave superpower, the impulse to return to the beautifully done animation remains persistent.

Furthermore, the film catches wind of a smelly-smell surrealism that’s caught me off guard, at times delving into multiple head-scratching digressions, including rap battles and illuminati implications. Random loopy sequences play out in 60s acid trip vistas that can only be ascribed to being under the influence. The narrative might sound like a square-shooting rehash, but by the time the film reached its conclusion, I could barely recollect the anarchical silliness of what I had just witnessed. It has all the makings of a potential cult film, even outside of sheer fandom, arising from its offbeat strangeness. Pre-2004 Spongebob has always been as much for adults as it is for children, providing slightly edgier, subtle humor for the older crowd. That same cross-generational nautical nonsense is provided here, if only not as firmly grasped as its unsanitized, ridiculous television series counterpart. For the first time in forever, Spongebob is quotable again. Disappointingly, there are some secondary characters who only have small cameos, or don’t show up at all, but even the 2004 film suffered from this.

While it may never reach the heights of the first 2004 film, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” managed to, for the first time in over 10 years, make me love SpongeBob again. In many ways it feels like various episodes stitched together to fit a 92-minute runtime, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has been deemed, “Not lame!” by my standards. It’s still up the air just when the series will return (we know Hillenburg will be returning with it), but its impending arrival has caused even more excitement since this movie is a considerable bounce-back from the drastic decline of post-2004 episodes. It won’t convert anyone who isn’t already a fan, and its weird dedication to remain thematically bare-bones is a mystery, but it’s a picture that goes beyond nostalgia, for the most part bringing back the glory days of what made the original-run work. That, in itself, is a sweet victory.

Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.

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