The disappearance of Mr. Krabs’ (the owner of Krusty Krab) Krabby Patty recipe has caused pandemonium in Bikini Bottom, where our hero SpongeBob, a sea sponge, works as a cook. If you had to re-read that, you are clearly unfamiliar with the SpongeBob franchise. As the adage goes, familiarity breeds contempt, but in this case, familiarity is crucial for your enjoyment.
The first thing that caught my eye was that the film was in 2D. Considering that a large portion of the trailer showed the characters in 3D and in live-action scenes, it was evident that the 2D scenes would make way soon for 3D. It’s quite an interesting idea as it’s not every day that you have a film that is part 2D and part 3D. Unfortunately, I found this shift rather jittery when it eventually came after the interval — yes, it takes that long. So, if you’re one of those people who can’t stomach 2D animation for too long, this is probably not the film for you. The rather abrupt change in the film’s setting and its format is probably a gimmick to tackle the challenge of expanding a 20-minute Nickelodeon show into a feature film, while remaining loyal to the show’s fans. Even the first film, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) did this in a smaller way.
Sponge Out of Water is in a way the movie equivalent of Benjamin Button. Its opening half is relevant to adults too, but as it goes on, it seems to appeal more and more to the younger ones, with the emphasis getting stronger on slapstick humour.
There are two stories here — one when the first film’s villain Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) continues to be rogue, and the other that has him turning over a new leaf (or does he really?) to help SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) reclaim the Krabby Patty recipe. Gripping story or otherwise, the film does its best to keep you laughing, or at the very least amused. Joke after joke rains on you, much like the mayonnaise that’s unleashed by SpongeBob on Plankton during the highly enjoyable underwater battle in the opening half. Before you can make up your mind about the quality of a joke, there’s another one. And before you can digest it, uh oh, here comes another. If you’re able to sit through the disjointed, chaotic mess that is the storyline, it’s only because every scene is treated as a comedy set piece. There are puns so bad that they are funny. As SpongeBob gears up to attack Plankton with pickles, he yells, “You’re in a pickle now!” You glower at the screen but secretly think, “Lol.” There’s another. Plankton turns into a Hulk-like superhero at the end, and when questioned about his musculature and large size, he quips, “Plank Tonne.” There’s no fighting these jokes. You just have to look at your partner, and grin as you would if it were your bad joke.
Antonio Banderas plays Burger Beard, the cartoonish — perhaps fittingly so — villain who loves his evil laugh. It’s all silly, but that’s what all the children in the theatre — and prepare to be among quite a few — seemed to enjoy. It’s after all them that the film’s mainly targeting. Curiously though, there’re quite a few close-ups of bikini-clad women in the second half. But considering that the latter portions are quite unmindful of adults, that's probably the filmmaker's way of providing compensation.