Since 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has been serving up jokes as fast as he serves Krabby Pattys at the Krusty Krab, making him the most popular yellow cartoon character this side of the Simpsons for multiple generations.
Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel faced the challenge of writing a script for “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” that was funny enough to captivate youngsters and their parents (or grandparents). They succeeded by using fun sight gags, corny puns and uninhibited joy.
Berger and Aibel have had practice with finding a broad-reaching formula — they know how to make young and old laugh, as seen with their work on “King of the Hill” and “Kung Fu Panda.”
It starts with keeping the plot simple: Everything falls apart in the sea-dwelling invertebrate’s town of Bikini Bottom when the secret formula for making Krabby Pattys is taken. The only way to restore order is to find the stolen recipe.
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Laughs are generated by the endless stream of gags. When SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) eat way too much cotton candy, they have the energy to run around the world, shown through postcards flipping behind them.
Director Paul Tibbitt takes all of the visual humor and presents it in both sparkling traditional animation and stunning computer-generated sequences for dry land. It helps that Tibbitt directed 12 episodes of the TV series. His familiarity comes through in this pumped-up large screen format.
The film is so bright and colorful that it doesn’t feel dull and dark, as often happens with 3-D. This is a rare case where the 3-D gives the movie an added dimension.
The voice work is solid because almost every character comes from the TV series. Kenny continues to prove he’s one of the best voice actors working, giving SpongeBob a gleeful — but not annoying — positive personality.
Antonio Banderas brings the right tongue-in-cheek performance to the role of Burger-Beard, the pirate who steals the Krabby Pattys formula. He could have done a pale imitation of Johnny Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow, but he embraces the role and makes it his own.
This all comes together to make “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” see-worthy for all ages. And, the comedy is so broad that even if you haven’t seen a single episode of the TV show, it’s easy to get on board with this ocean of laughs.