'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water': Film Review

While it has plenty of zany moments, SpongeBob's second feature outing proves less absorbing than the first.

Antonio Banderas provides the key live-action element in this 3D amphibious feature.

You can take the sponge out of Bikini Bottom ... or can you?

It would appear even the makers of SpongeBob’s first big-screen caper since 2004’s buoyantly entertaining The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie realize that the real magic happens below the surface.

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For although the title and those persistent TV ads might suggest otherwise, only a small fraction of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water actually takes place above sea level.

But rather than further expanding those seemingly limitless SpongeBob horizons, the live-action/CG stuff never satisfyingly jibes with the traditional nautical nonsense down below.

Despite the resulting watered-down effect, it should be clear sailing at the box office for the Paramount release, which washes up on American shores Feb. 6 (bumped from last November) following a handful of earlier overseas openings.

With almost 200 episodes airing to date, Stephen Hillenburg's lovable yellow and porous character has reportedly generated some $8 billion in merchandising revenues for Nickelodeon since first emerging in 1999.

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Armed with a much larger production budget, it’s essentially business as usual down in Bikini Bottom, where Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) is once again plotting to get his hands on the secret Krabby Patty formula.

But when it seemingly evaporates into thin air, turning Bikini Bottom in an “apocalyptic cesspool” in the aftermath, he and SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) make for an unorthodox team as they travel through time in a reconfigured photo booth in a bid to restore order.

Meanwhile, up in the live-action world, the crazed Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) has his own nefarious plans for Mr. Krabs’ (Clancy Brown) treasured patties.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the two worlds collide, but it takes a lot longer to happen than the marketing materials would indicate.

As longtime fans know, SpongeBob’s previous attempts to come up for air haven’t gone too well, save for a memorable 2D interaction with David Hasselhoff in the last movie.

Here, longtime series director Paul Tibbitt handles the underwater sequences while Mike Mitchell directs the live-action sequences, but the two worlds fail to create a cohesive whole in spite of all the inspired non sequiturs provided by the Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger script.

Sometimes life at the bottom can be a good thing.

Production companies: Paramount Animation, Nickelodeon Movies
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence.
Directors: Paul Tibbitt, Mike Mitchell
Screenwriters: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Producers: Paul Tibbitt, Mary Parent
Executive producers: Stephen Hillenburg, Cale Boyter, Nan Morales, Craig Sost
Editor: David Ian Salter
Production designer: Luke Freeborn
Costume director: Roland Sanchez
Composer: John Debney
Casting director: Lorna Johnson

Rated PG, 91 minutes