The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Director: Paul Tibbitt, Mike Mitchell
Cast: Antonio Banderas, voices of Tom Kenny, Clancy Brown
Director Paul Tibbitt's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is zany, clever and fun (and in 3-D), as long as you can take 93 minutes of it. As I exited the theatre, I heard a father telling his young son wearily: "That's about all the SpongeBob I can take." The son, it seemed, could have taken a few hours more.
The movie - the second feature-length outing for the Nickelodeon television character, 11 years after the first - begins somewhere in our world above the undersea hamlet of Bikini Bottom, where SpongeBob lives. We meet a nefarious pirate named Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas, appearing in live-action form and game for anything), who is searching for a precious, ancient book using a treasure map.
The book tells the story of Bikini Bottom - a clever plot device that helps to bring those in the audience unfamiliar with SpongeBob up to speed with the character and his home. In a clever touch that parents will appreciate, an old library card shows the previous borrowers, who include Davy Jones.
We learn how the residents of Bikini Bottom are addicted to Krabby Patties, burgers made only at Krusty Krab, the fast-food joint where SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) works for Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown), who stores the secret recipe in a vault.
The action switches to Bikini Bottom, where rival restaurant owner Plankton is trying to steal the formula, as usual. He fails but the formula disappears. The two rivals decide to join forces to find it and this quest drives the plot of the movie, with many a wacky tangent awaiting. These include time travel and a trip into space, to a weird platform where a porpoise, who sounds delightfully like Christopher Walken, makes sure planets don't collide.
But back to the recipe. It's an urgent mission, because without the beloved snack, Bikini Bottom falls immediately into an apocalyptic state, with everyone wearing leather and turning evil. They're really hungry.
Eventually, SpongeBob and his posse - which includes series regulars Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and, of course, Patrick the starfish (Bill Fagerbakke) - end up travelling somewhere they've never been: to the surface and out of the water.
Here, they swap the 2-D look of TV animation for their new, 3-D movie forms, the better to run around the beach (populated by live-action humans) and track down the villainous Burger Beard, who is up to something nasty.
This isn't a battle to be fought by puny cartoon characters, however, so they undergo another transformation, into superhero versions of themselves, all the better to battle that snack-stealing pirate.
Kids are the prime target for these shenanigans, of course, but adults might enjoy the wordplay. "Unleash the condiments," Krabs says during a battle. "With relish!" SpongeBob replies.