Being an avid fan of the absurd yellow sponge and his adorably-dumb pink friend, I was ecstatic when they were finally releasing a second movie after 10 long years! Having had to settle for many reruns of Spongebob episodes on TV to sate my craving for daily nautical nonsense all this time, catching this movie on its release day was like a long-awaited reunion with an old friend!
However, there was one teeny weeny problem that bugged me. The concept of turning Spongebob from a 2D character to a 3D one scared me a little, even at the skillful hands of Paul Tibitt. I was worried that the alteration would be too much to accept. Spongebob’s world works well in 2D, from the forced perspectives to the wallpaper-like backgrounds to the transitional bubble-wipes, everything is visibly flat and does not pretend to be otherwise. Would it still be Spongebob if the medium were changed to simulated 3D? I had to judge for myself. I’m not the biggest fan of change you see, especially when it’s something this close to heart. But when the lights in the cinema hall dimmed, and that familiar piratey rasp opened up with my favourite sea-shanty, my worries were laid to rest.
Like any other day, Plankton plots to steal the krabby patty formula; Spongebob once again come to the rescue and Mr Krabs catapults Plankton out of the Krusty Krab. However this time, in the tug-of-war over the formula between Plankton and Spongebob, the formula magically disappears. At the same time, the Krusty Krab runs out of Krabby Patties and suddenly the whole town is deprived of the tastiest burger underwater. The resulting vile, angry mob goes postal on Bikini Bottom. Spongebob and friends (and Plankton) escape the apocalyptic nightmare their town has become, intending to discover the truth behind the formula’s disappearance and restore the town back to normal. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say Spongebob teaches Plankton the important of Teamwork (or “T-AM-WORK” as Plankton would say it) along their journey to retrieve the precious Krabby Patty formula.
On the surface world, my favorite sequence has to be the big fight scene between The Villain (I don’t want to spoil it, really!) and our main cast from Bikini Bottom who have teamed up in an Avengers-style superhero alliance. There is a little bit of Iron-Man in Mr Krabs; Squidward develops “sournote” clarinet powers; Patrick gains the ability to control ice… cream; Spongebob projects force-field bubbles; Plankton stays mean and green with his Hulk-like physique; and Sandy… well, Sandy is a squirrel (yes, the tree-climbing, nut-gathering kind), ’nuff said. It is truly comical to watch how these off-beat characters and their powers complement one another!
In all honesty, while the movie provided an interesting plot while still remaining faithful to the characters we know and love, it could have put our heroes in more dire straits rather than let their situations be resolved too easily. At no point did we the audience feel worried for Spongebob and Co and wonder if they had bitten off more than they could chew. In pitching to the younger crowd, perhaps the producers might have overlooked that their first audience has since grown up a bit and would appreciate a slightly edgier narrative. It’s a fine line, but we’d like some consideration too, just saying.
Regardless, Sponge out of Water offers many fresh and entertaining elements throughout the whole 93 minutes. Some subtle real-world cross-references are really funny, especially when re-contextualized into their Spongebob equivalents! For a sequel, this movie still packs in some fresh ideas and unexpected twists while still delivering a feel-good story about the importance of friendship, justice and teamwork. Hey, it is a kids’ movie, after all!
Despite my earlier apprehension, I’d say Spongebob makes a successful transition from a 2D platform to a 3D one in this movie outing. Pleasing to the eye, and good for a belly laugh, this movie gets a 3.5 popcorn salute out of 5 from me!