The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water Parent Movie Review
Taking my son to Paramount Studios on a school night to see the new SpongeBob movie is one of those little treats I enjoy being able to dole out as an LA parent. I knew I was scoring some high quality Mom Points, and I was not remotely surprised that my 11-year-old loved the film. What did surprise me was that I really enjoyed it, too! And I'll be brutally honest: I don't think I've ever uttered the name SpongeBob without making some kind of pained facial expression. I have a dad friend who has tried tirelessly to convert me to the Square Pants team, even citing parallels to Commedia dell'Arte, but the best I've ever managed is a polite smile. So with THAT context and background, it means a lot when I tell you that I really enjoyed The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Is it your family's cup of sea? I'll try to give you just enough info to help you decide, without spoiling any of the guffaws.
Kids love SpongeBob, but I suspect that I am not the only mom out there who thinks of a SpongeBob movie outing as taking one for the team. So my hat is off to the Paramount/Nickelodeon folks who had the vision to hand us Antonio Banderas in pirate gear from the opening moments of the movie. Banderas all Jack Sparrowed up and trying to do a pirate accent - what could be more endearing? I'll answer that rhetorical question: he could interact with a flock of singing, dancing animated seagulls, Dick Van Dyke style. It's a jolly holiday with Antonio; if he wants the Krabby Patty recipe, I'm all in.
For anyone already all in with the SpongeBob crew, the characters and themes are familiar. For those of us who haven't paid attention before, anything we need to know is quickly handed to us, as we're launched full-throttle into an underwater food fight. The violence level is pretty old-school; no boxes labeled "Acme Sponge Squasher" are delivered, but one would certainly fit right in. There are potato guns (no wonder my dad friends like this show!), ketchup cannons, and uber-transformers. There is also a layer of fast-paced punning reminiscent of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show. The only warning some parents might want is that these battle sequences are long - much longer, apparently, than the ones on the TV show (I cite my son as source here). At 11, my son considers longer battle scenes a wonderful selling point; kids closer to kindergarten age might find the many sustained and relentless battle scenes (which presumably got the film its PG rating) pretty stressful. My guy would have been overwhelmed by the intensity before he was six or seven (much though he'd deny it now); if your kindergartner took The LEGO Movie in stride, though, this one will be a piece of cake.
Battles aside, there is not much else to worry about from the parent perspective. The language is clean, and there is nothing that feels explicit, inappropriate, or in need of parental explanation. There is a beach scene with some women in revealing bikinis, but nothing worse than your kids would see on a bike ride down Venice Beach.
A pleasing plot point is the recurring message of team work. A character previously known as an enemy anemone becomes an important partner to SpongeBob in the film, and it takes work on both of their parts to make this possible. Compromise, trust, and second chances all get good air time. Meanwhile, for tech junkies there is plenty to marvel at: the blending of different styles of animation is remarkable, and the 3D treatment is not only merited but very effective and impressive. I'm often happy to skip 3D screenings, but Sponge Out of Water is truly raised to another level by its 3D reality.
Finally, I must keep a promise made to my apprentice reviewer / movie companion and let our readers know that the way SpongeBob and his pals look on the poster is NOT how they look for most of the film. My son was concerned, when he saw the ads, that the movie would be about a big superhero SpongeBob unlike the familiar and goofy little sea sponge he loves. Not so. The transformation that causes the muscular appearance of SpongeBob and friends on billboards around town comes late in the film; fans of the show need not fear sea creature bait and switch.
And parents need not fear cartoon brain freeze. I laughed out loud several times at the movie's wordplay; I was fascinated by the high level of animation, and I was tickled silly at Buccaneer Banderas and his piratical antics. What more could we ask from a family film?
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water opens nationwide on February 6, 2015.
For more parent movie reviews, check out our Film and Show Guide.