The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (2015)     ★★★★½

The first question I have whenever an animated film adaptation of a television show appears in theaters is whether or not its existence is born out of a burning desire to tell a story, or merely an opportunistic cash grab. Thankfully The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water doesn’t disappoint, and is probably the greatest example of the former since South Park: Bigger Longer And Uncut. If coming more than a decade after the previous film, and being produced during a time when the show has been declining in ratings isn’t convincing enough, what seals the deal is an incredibly anarchic, and wildly inventive spirit which creator Stephen Hillenburg and company double down on for this character’s second outing on the big screen.

I love Nickelodeon’s show. I’m not going to lie, I watch it with my children and honestly, they lose interest well before I do, and are far more easily distracted away from SpongeBob’s antics, usually whenever a more complexly plotted episode airs. So I confess at least some bias, but when I think about it I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone in my life who dislikes the show. Flashy colors, big, obvious emotions, and Looney Tunes-style violence grab the youngsters, while a nonstop barrage of irony and multi-layered stories snare adults, creating a perfect recipe for both kids and kids at heart alike.

Aside from a live action wraparound, featuring a very game Antonio Banderas, as the pirate whose portrait introduces each episode, trying to find treasure, the bulk of Sponge Out Of Water takes place on Bikini Bottom, where a botched attempt by Plankton to steal the Krusty Krab’s Krabby Patty secret formula results in its disappearance, plunging everyone’s favorite underwater city into a panic of hilariously literal, apocalyptic proportions that must be seen to be believed. Our thankless and naive hero Spongebob joins forces with Plankton to retrieve the recipe and save Bikini Bottom, and eventually makes it to dry land with the rest of the gang for a much-hyped, action-packed, CGI thrill ride that more than warrants the big screen treatment.

The humor is so witty and smart, thanks to screenwriters Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel, previous Emmy winners for their work on FOX’s irony-laden King Of The Hill series. At one point Mr. Krabs chases after Plankton, screaming “Plankton is an enemy,” and Squidward responds, “so which is it, is he plankton or anenome;” and the film is full of moments like that, relentlessly and consistently firing on all cylinders on paper, and paced at a typically breakneck speed by director Paul Tibbitt. Spongebob’s charm is outmatched only by the film’s freewheeling creativity, and the result is a welcome dose of family entertainment with an extremely high rewatch potential. I hope it isn’t another decade before we can see these characters again on the big screen, but if it is you can bet it will be worth the wait.

The Verdict: Rave