Sponge Out Of Water Is Trippy Fun For The Whole Family And Also Your Stoner Pals.

Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out Of Water.
Director: Paul Tibbitt.
Writers: Glen Berger and Jonathan Aibel, created by Stephen Hillenburg.
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence.
Playing at: Wide.

It's kind of crazy to think that Spongebob Squarepants has been on the air for 15-plus years, with its first theatrical feature released all the way back in 2004. Think about what this means: This revered Nickelodeon cartoon has now raised two generations with its upbeat, underwater brand of humor.

Just as remarkable is the fact that, over this stretch, the show hasn't really changed much. The characters have all stayed exactly the same for this entire time. The show basically just resets itself every 22 minutes.

In the meantime, shows like Adventure Time and Regular Show have become increasingly popular. Those shows have a serial nature to their storytelling. They're also insanely trippy and psychedelic. And, now, with the new new live-action and animation hybrid Sponge Out Of Water, it seems that Spongebob is finally taking notes of this, and updating its humor style to keep up with the times.

And it does this pretty well, too. Unlike most feature-length adaptations of 22-minute cartoon series, this particular movie doesn't feel like three episodes strung together. It's a complete package.

Mainly, Sponge Out Of Water deals with a mysterious pirate named Burger Beard, who's played by a downright giddy and bonkers Antonio Banderas, and the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Krabs' Krabby Patty recipe during one of rival Plankton's schemes. After the Krabby Patty recipe disappears, there're no more burgers — and, all of a sudden, the world turns into chaos. Naturally, it's up to Spongbebob to find the recipe before his town of Bikini Bottom is destroyed.

Things get pretty dark at this point. In essence, this film basically argues that society depends on a very delicate balance — and anything that sets that balance off will turn even the best of friends into enemies. It's a pretty stark thing to watch, especially for this film's youngest intended audiences. When I screened this film, I actually heard kids getting audibly upset at the fact that both Patrick and Gary, Spongebob's best friend and pet snail, respectively, turned against him in this post-Krabby Patty world.

Consider this a testament to the face that this film isn't afraid to take some risks. Most notably, the film has no issue allowing its themes to get a little meta, as it does in its animated and live-action worlds alike. The live-action stuff is especially interesting: In our world, Spongebob is simultaneously fictitious and real, and it's here where the movie's weird narrative logic starts to become a little bizarre.

The stoners out there, who are sure to at least have a passing curiosity about this film, will no doubt appreciate this turn. It's at this point where the movie's humor starts becoming less like a wholesome Nickelodeon cartoon and a lot more like an Adult Swim fever dream. The psychedelia is palpable here — even if younger audiences are bound to miss these notes and just start laughing at the sight of a huge animated candy creature with the face of a real cat because, hey, that's a weird visual, isn't it?

Adult audiences will pick up on these notes, though. And they'll appreciate the darkness of the plot, with its ample references to Mad Max and other touchstones younger crowds won't recognize.

They'll similarly delight in the use of 3-D technology in this movie. It's unique in that it's used in crazy “in-your-face” sequences and more subtle ways alike. The subtle usages are maybe more impressive, actually — like when it's used to add depth to the underwater scenes by placing bubbles in both the foreground and the background. That's not to discount the action sequences, though. They too resonate while being presented in long takes that are sprinkled with some solid jokes.

Truly, the only obvious knock on this film is that it stalls some in its middle third and features a few too many erroneous scenes.

But. as far as TV cartoon movies go, Sponge Out Of Water overcomes those hurdles. It's funny, it's well-written, it's really bizzare and it accomplishes its goal of keeping Spongebob in the cultural zeitgeist.

Does it match the clout of a Pixar movie? No. Not at all. But as a potential stoner cult classic, it works rather swimmingly.

Grade: B+.

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