Strange isn’t it? Out of all the blockbuster movies and the huge variety of Pixar films I could have chosen, why select this one, why review SpongeBob? It’s an unorthodox approach, I know. But I assure you, it’s certainly no joke. To shed some context in my decision, I must confess that I was fascinated and amused with the series since young and still am today. The SpongeBob topic was unexpectedly fairly fun to discuss and contemplate about once I had done a bit of research into it, with a general consensus that the early seasons were far superior to the modern seasons, and arguably remains one of the best cartoon shows to date.
This was undoubtedly due to the management of Stephen Hillenburg, (creator/showrunner of the show) until his supposed departure after the first movie came out. Though there are indeed gems tossed here and there in the later seasons, they are a tad too rare and buried in the pile of bad episodes, leaving bad impressions to viewers.
Part of the reason why SpongeBob had suffered an obvious decline in quality was due to the many writers leaving the show altogether, and Nickelodeon’s decision to milk it into a kid-friendly cash cow of sorts. Even in a “kids show”, quality writing still does matter, as evidenced by the clever wit and memorable quotes from the early seasons, with some adult jokes even making it pass the censors. It is apparent that the show was meant to appeal to both adult and children audiences alike, but Nickelodeon had instead chosen to sacrifice SpongeBob’s consistent quality and adult viewers for an average entertainment for kids and a not so lasting legacy. So what, you may ask, how does this correlate to the second movie?
Well, for starters, Hillenburg has not only returned to write the story for the movie, but is also taking charge of the later seasons as of now, creating some excitement and buzz for older fans of the series. Considering that the SpongeBob Movie: SpongeBob Out of Water is his first official work for SpongeBob after nearly ten years, does it still hold up to the standards set by the early legacy of SpongeBob? Without further ado, let’s delve into the strange, nautical world.
The plot starts out simply enough, with your typical special opening and Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty Formula-yet again. It seems like the movie is a combination of the all too familiar rehashes of the mundane formula, which quite frankly it is to some extent. If not for the numerous saving graces of the movie, the movie would had boiled down to Nickelodeon’s cheap attempt at milking the franchise, and tarnishing its already damaged reputation. Fortunately, the saving graces are fairly good and the primary reason behind it is simple: the saving graces are just great aspects that had established the early SpongeBob seasons. To the overall energy of the film, the animation choice and the surprisingly good writing of the staff, it is very reminiscent of how SpongeBob used to be, and perhaps even taking the aspects one step further. The plot also changes for the better as well, turning into a more nonsensical but an even more fun time travel journey, appealing to its older fans through its many references and zany writing.
It is by no means an original concept but the execution is done excellently well and the constant energy complements it even further. The animation paints a vibrant and colourful world for viewers to immerse themselves in, and the voice acting is top notch as well. It is a pleasant surprise at how well the movie flowed as a whole, though the “Out of Water” segments pale in comparison in terms of writing and more cringe-worthiness. Thankfully, these segments are only shown in the last fifth of the movie, giving enough time for the movie to compensate for this weakness.
It is a delight to see the main characters reverting to their early seasons self, all with the exception of Patrick, who still remains flanderised beyond belief, but is strangely fitting with the context of the movie. The side characters are also fun and great to watch on the big screen, having some entertainment and comedic value to them. As for our two main characters, SpongeBob and Plankton, the two bond together over the course of the movie, much like how they did in a previous episode. Plankton, like always has a sort of evil and manipulative personality, though he is genuinely willing to help sometimes, as proven by how assisted the main characters during the action scenes. Going into the SpongeBob side, it is fairly surprising to analyse his character traits. He displays a more mature outlook on things, whilst retaining his good guy and optimistic mentality at the same time. In conjunction with his film personality, his voice actor Tom Kenny has brought back the “old SpongeBob voice”, being more nasal and slightly less annoying. Overall, it is a refreshing take on SpongeBob’s personality, and I applaud the staff for their daringness.
To conclude, I felt that the SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a rather good movie, not great, not bad, just good. Various flaws in the movie severely undermine its potential, especially so in the “Out of Water” segments, average and sometimes flat storyline and some pacing problems, not to mention that the trailers don't do it enough justice. Regardless, the movie’s many good aspects still bring the movie up to a good level, highlighting once again how well the movie was executed. It falls a bit short of being great, but if anything this movie serves as an opportune reminder how what SpongeBob is capable of achieving, and it has certainly made me excited, even optimistic of the Sponge’s future. Until then, this SpongeBob movie serves as a fairly good standalone movie on its own, and I would definitely people to give it honest shot.
Final rating: 7/10