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Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, The

Paramount // PG // June 2, 2015
List Price: $52.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 18, 2015 | E-mail the Author
It's been over ten years since SpongeBob SquarePants last graced the silver screen, and it's a testament to the character's resilience that the show has managed to endure in an age of shortening attention spans and increasing creativity and ingenuity in kids cartoons. Not that "SpongeBob" wasn't a wildly creative show itself but it feels like a model that has since been built upon and evolved. There's no question that programs like "Adventure Time" and "Gravity Falls" have a bit of "SpongeBob" in their lineage, but it perseveres, one of the rare cases where the progenitor continues to loom large over the landscape in question. Perhaps the show is destined to be "The Simpsons" of Nickelodeon's stable.

It's possible that self-awareness of the show's increasing age is the impetus behind a movie like SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water. The posters and trailers have focus on the characters' adventure from the 2D-animated seas to the live-action shores, where SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence), and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) are realized with cutting edge 3D animation. The story: the pirate from the show's iconic opening credits, Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas), sneaks away with Mr. Krabs' top-secret Krabby Patty recipe, creating havoc in Bikini Bottom. Blame for the crime is directed at Plankton, and SpongeBob's insistence that Plankton is (in this case) innocent forces them to team up to recover the recipe to quiet the Mad Max-style apocalypse that springs up overnight.

There are two approaches for a long-running cartoon when it comes to a movie, and now the "SpongeBob" team has tried both of them. It's possible I haven't seen it since theaters, but my recollection of the first SpongeBob feature is that it felt like creator Stephen Hillenburg wanted to tell a more epic story, something that required the larger scale and length of a movie. The alternative is to tackle a plot that could've filled an episode, but to take advantage of the budget to really go all-out with the animation and effects. Sponge Out of Water is the latter, frequently dazzling with its blend of live-action and CG animation (which looks impressively convincing, in the sense that SpongeBob and his friends look more like giant vinyl figurines when occupying reality), not to mention some stylistic flourishes that call out for the wider expanse of a movie screen to really shine. In one of the movie's stranger sequences, the characters hop through a time warp and end up encountering a space dolphin (Matt Berry), whose job is to keep Saturn and Jupiter from colliding using telepathy. The bit feels like reheated Hitchhiker's Guide, but it's eye-popping just the same, even in 2D.

On the other hand, the plot is basically a morsel, with jokes outweighing plot 100% of the time. Since the film is aimed at kids, those jokes come at a rapid pace, which becomes somewhat exhausting. For hardcore fans of the show, the mere sight of SpongeBob and Plankton spending time together might be enough, but their awkward "tee-amwork" wears a little thin (a musical number about teamwork kind of deflates in the wake of The Lego Movie's earworm). Worse, viewers who hope to spend most of the movie on land -- you know, like the title and all the promotional materials imply -- are going to be kind of disappointed by the fact that the movie wastes 70 of its 90 minutes building to the character's arrival on the beach. The effects and scope of the climactic battle between SpongeBob and Burger Beard is certainly impressive, but on some levels, the long wait for the movie to live up to what many are likely to think is its premise is undeniably disappointing.

In the end, the worst thing about Sponge Out of Water is how inconsequential it feels. Much like an episode of the show, nothing of relevance seems to happen during the movie. The first SpongeBob film may not have had much of an effect on the show either, but it felt like a journey that had some impact on the characters. Sponge Out of Water feels more like a group of professionals trying to think of what would excite them about a second SpongeBob film more than a story that anyone was dying to tell. It's fitfully funny, visually gorgeous, and ultimately a bit of a trifle...more the condiments for a Krabby Patty, instead of the meat itself.

The Blu-ray
Sponge Out of Water arrives in a 2-disc eco-friendly Viva Elite Blu-ray case, with an image of the CG, "superhero" versions of SpongeBob and his friends catching a wave. The glossy slipcover features embossing for the title, SpongeBob and Patrick, and inside there is nearly identical artwork with bright and iconic yellow and blue colors that should grab children's eyes. Inside the case, you'll find the Blu-ray, the DVD Copy, and a sheet with an UltraViolet Digital Copy redemption code on it.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this is a spectacular effort by Paramount bringing a vibrant explosion of sound and vision home on Blu-ray. Both the animation and live-action segments feature a wide range of eye-popping colors, surprising and unusual sound effects (especially during many of Plankton and SpongeBob's time-traveling escapades), bouncy and engaging music, and all sorts of other nonsense that looks and sounds great. At no point during this smorgasbord of sensory information did I register anything lacking about the presentation: this is top-notch stuff. French, Spanish, and Portuguese are also included in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1, along with a stereo English Audio Description track. There are also English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

The Extras
A wealth of extras are included on this Blu-ray disc, divided up into four sections. The first is "On the Surface", which includes several featurettes. "SpongeBob SquarePants: Out of His World" (7:40) is the usual making-of featurette, with interviews from the cast, director Paul Tibbitt, producer Mary Parent, creator and co-story writer Stephen Hillenburg, and other crew. This has a bit more energy than the usual EPK, and features some fun production art and B-roll of the animators working on the film. "When I Grow Up, I Want to Make Funny Sounds" (9:41) sits down with the voice cast for a chat about their love for their characters, what it's like being a voice actor, and some of their warm-up routine. Fun stuff. "Becoming Burger Beard" (6:06) focuses on Antonio Banderas' part in the movie, including the costuming and makeup (Banderas talks about discovering how much the wig really weighed after each day of production through the aching of his neck). "Making the Burger Mobile Chase Sequence" (5:40) is a little self-explanatory, talking a bit about Burger Beard's food truck and the extensive CGI work that went into the sequence. The section wraps up with two gag featurettes, It's Hip to Be SquarePants" (3:31) and "A Day in the Life of a Sponge" (2:33). The former finds the movie's costume designer, a fashion expert, falling in love with square pants, while the latter (the funnier of the two), details the grueling 9-to-5 grind of one of the world's many dish scrubbers.

The second section, "Underwater Awesomeness", is more educational. "Plankton Rules the World" (6:21) and "Bikini Bottom Confidential: Rock Stars of the Seas" (9:28) are both hosted by Dr. Sylvia Earle. In the first, she introduces viewers to real-life plankton using her special submarine, and in the latter, she spotlights some of her friends: a sub designer, a diving safety officer, an ocean acidification researcher, and a marine ecologist. This section also contains a mini-section called "International Sponge of Mystery", where viewers can watch two clips -- "Meeting Bubbles" (2:58) and "The Speech" (1:17), which progress through the many languages SpongeBob is translated into.

The third section is "Bikini Bottom Boogie", where musical clips are offered up. The first is "Thank Gosh It's Monday" (2:39). It's a mildly funny song about SpongeBob's love for his job, but man oh man, did the filmmakers sure think it was going to be a smash, because for no reason at all, it's included on this disc three times (possibly four, depending on your definition). You can, in fact, find it again almost immediately in the sub-section "SpongeBob Sing-Alongs", where "Thank Gosh It's Monday" (2:44), "Teamwork" (1:23), and "Theme / Rap Battle" (1:41) are offered up. The section ends with the music video for "Squeeze Me" by N.E.R.D., which is another song that the viewer will become very tired of if they choose to watch all the extras, as it is the music for the disc's menu.

The final section is "Deleted / Extended / Alternate / Test Scenes" (24:43 total), which is pretty self-explanatory. Here, you will find the other two instances of "Thank Gosh It's Monday", both in the form of a deleted scene and also an extended animatic, which makes up more than 25% of the entire deleted scenes section -- it just goes on and on.

No theatrical trailers for SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water are included. All of the extras are presented in HD.

Fans may enjoy the visual stylings and general pleasantness of Sponge Out of Water, but it's a little lacking in terms of story. Admittedly, I'm quite a bit older than the movie's target audience, so maybe it'll please youngsters just fine, but even kids may recognize that this one doesn't feel like someone was desperate to make a movie, or find themselves disappointed that the CG versions of SpongeBob and hisn crew don't show up until the movie's almost over. Rent it.

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