Nickelodeon’s absurdist behaviour and its brand of transgressive humour have driven some parents crazy. However, it’s a unique knack that has struck hilarity with viewers who were considered Generation Y, or 90’s kids. Nick’s bizarre reality is what gave many of their television shows their edge, and most programming were not willing to push the absurdist envelope as far as Nickelodeon would.
The station has cooled its jets as of recent with more family friendly fare, while the oldies play on throwback stations. However, SpongeBob Squarepants was that strange show that was trying to bring creative weirdness back into the forefront.
SpongeBob’s long running show as well as the cartoon’s first foray into feature films – The Spongebob Squarepants Movie – were steps forward contributing to the resurgence of hallucinatory children’s entertainment. Now, the gang’s back in 3D with The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. It’s illogical, funny, trippy, and a slice of genius wrapped up in what could only be described as an acid-dipped tie-dye t-shirt.
The narrative cooked up by screenwriters Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel based on a story by Stephen Hillenburg and director Paul Tibbitt is implausibly silly, which suits the nuttiness of the material. The movie weaves in and out of a book stolen by pirate Burger Beard (played by a jovial Antonio Banderas), and describes a quest to rediscover a secret recipe to the Krabby Patty. The burger is a delicacy to Spongebob and his community in the underwater township known as Bikini Bottom.
Spongebob (voiced by the ever talented Tom Kenny) is forced to work with his nemesis Plankton (voiced by the mysterious Mr. Lawrence) in order to recover the recipe. This means travelling back in time to stop a recipe heist carried out by a past Plankton. Meanwhile, a burger barren Bikini Bottom unravels into a senseless rage that may have scared away Mad Max if he were pint-sized.
Deliriously imaginative time traveling sequences ensue, and are a trip to watch through 3D glasses. The kids will laugh, and the adults will wonder how “enhanced” the filmmakers were. And then in a sequence that’s a deliberate nod to the unhinged work of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the film really goes bananas.
There’s a constant theme of teamwork that neither feels forced or superfluous, which helps add some substance to the wild visuals. The animation is punched up and cinematic compared to the average 22-minute episode, and when a few key characters venture outside the water, their CG designs look healthily rendered.
The final third which has the cartoon gang banding against Burger Beard has an Avengers vibe to it, and I can’t help but wonder if a producer was pushing the director to make something a little bit more “mainstream”. It isn’t a distraction away from this fun flick, but the impressive action does come across as more of the norm expected from a bouncy kids film nowadays. Especially in this current age of Marvel movies.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t connect with Sponge Out of Water on a nostalgic level. But even if I wasn’t a Gen Y movie goer, I would still dig Tibbitt’s film. It’s a tasty fantasy to the senses and roaringly funny.