2004’s The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is a spiritual experience. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement. It’s a spiritual experience to me though, because I was seven years old at the time of its release and I’ve watched it more times than I have any other animated film. Still, the original film is a great encapsulation of everything that is great about Spongebob. A lot of people even say that Spongebob lost its appeal after the movie. Personally, I stopped watching the show partway through the season following the film, however that may have been due to the fact that I was getting older. That said, I still watched the movie numerous times after I stopped watching the show.
Spongebob Squarepants was created by Stephen Hillenburg, who ran the show for the first three seasons. The movie was released shortly after the third season. Hillenburg wanted the movie to signal the end of Spongebob, due to fears that the show would “jump the shark”, but the show’s popularity caused Nickelodeon to order a fourth season. Hillenburg resigned from the showrunner position and staff writer Paul Tibbitt took over. However, Hillenburg returned to the show as a writer with The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.
The story of the film follows Spongebob and the crew after the ‘Krabby Patty’ formula disappears and ‘Krabby Patties’ can no longer be made. The town becomes ravenous and everyone looks for an explanation of where the formula went. Similar to the original film, a small portion of the story also takes place above ground, where live action and animation merge. Antonio Banderas plays a pirate named Burger-Beard who obtains a magical book that can alter reality.
This movie is fun the entire way through. The animation is colorful and full of life, and the mixed live-action/animation sequences are handled wonderfully. The film is a kids movie, and it definitely manages and maintains it’s frenetic energy the entire way through, which is pretty impressive given that the movie is eight times the length of a normal episode. There is also a level of surrealistic absurdism to the movie that makes it entertaining to adults as well.
Even though this movie does recapture the essence of Spongebob, I would still argue that the original film is still superior. The original movie explored complex themes and felt like it told a story that couldn’t have been told as effectively on TV. The themes explored in this film feel muted in comparison (Teamwork is the only one that really stands out), and the various extreme shifts in the focus of the story make the movie feel like a bunch of extended TV episodes combined together. This is still a great kids film, though. 7/10.