– by David Morgan-Brown
Depending on who you ask, Spongebob Squarepants is one of the great cartoon icons of our time. The face of this personified sea-sponge has been singed into our modern day culture. One of the lasting appeals of the show, now in its ninth season, is how it attarcts multiple age groups – most kids that watch television love the show, but there’s likely more adults that love the underwater yellow sponge of unbridled enthusiasm, including US President Barack Obama and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who both claim to watch the show with their kids.
That’s the success of the show, yet we can’t see that sort of universal appeal in this new feature-length adaptation. Spongebob first hit the big screen in 2004 with the simply titled The Spongebob Squarepants Movie – not only did it hardly have any Squidward or Mr Krabs in it, but it showed how strained the humour could be when stretched from its usual 6 minutes to 86 minutes. Maybe Spongebob wasn’t suited for the cinematic spotlight, but there were still enough laughs to be had with this underwater movie with Spongebob and his starfish best friend Patrick, and it was at least funnier and more successful than this new adaptation.
The storyline doesn’t seem too different from the first movie’s (which wasn’t that different to Finding Nemo’s) – a tragedy to do with the hamburger restaurant The Krusty Krab occurs (the secret ingredient is finally successfully stolen from Plankton, but then goes missing) which puts Bikini Bottom in a state of apocalypse and hungry turmoil, so our team of heroes have to trek through the vast seas until they (due to cartoonish circumstances) end up on the surface land, face to face with not-so-perplexed humans.
Sponge Out of Water may have plenty more Squidward and Mr Krabs than the first one, it just about doesn’t have any of the endearing qualities the show usually does, as it seems to only aim to appeal to the kids and not many others. There’s plenty of laughs throughout the film, but no real gut-busters that the show (or even the first film) provided and things start to feel pretty fatigued as the film claws its way to the end, especially as the paper-thin story that relies on contrived cartoon logic to go from one random set-piece to the next wears down the skit-like film, and the jokes (that don’t go beyond chuckle-worthy) only make it even more tiring.
The first movie was another case of a cartoon show stretched to unreasonable proportions, and this new adaptation is just a continuation of that tiresome endurance. You’re better off just watching 15 episodes from the show’s early seasons in a row. I’m not sure how the target audience (kids) will respond to this, though the screening I went to was full of them and it sounded like I laughed more than any of them.