After the Spongebob Movie, I slowly phased out of watching Spongebob. The episodes just didn’t seem to be funny after a certain point – it was lacking the wit, charm, and originality of the earlier episodes.
Take the synopsis of an earlier episode versus an episode of a later season that I got from Wikipedia:
Karate Choppers: “SpongeBob is constantly practicing karate with Sandy, but Mr. Krabs forbids SpongeBob to do karate after attacking the customers at the Krusty Krab and threatens to fire him for good.”
Squid Baby: “A head injury causes Squidward to regress to an infant state, and SpongeBob and Patrick must take care of him until he recovers.”
From personal experience, the concept for Squid Baby sounds a lot more generic than the one for Karate Choppers, which seems way more creative and original to me. Squid Baby’s conceit seems simpler versus Karate Choppers’ conceit, which has more narrative room to go anywhere the writers wish. Karate Choppers’ concept doesn’t necessarily have to end as cleanly as Squid Baby’s concept seems to do. It’s hard to explain, but Squid Baby’s concept sounds like something I could watch in any other cartoon, whereas Karate Choppers is a concept that I think only Spongebob could pull off. And even when the earlier episodes of Spongebob do something more generically cartoony, like a more common “sick episode”, they provide it with their own twist – Spongebob gets the suds, instead of a common cold.
Perhaps it’s just bias/nostalgia towards the older seasons, though. I’d love to give the later seasons of the show another chance – this is just the reason why I fell out of love with Spongebob Squarepants.
It’s also why I went into The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Sponge Out of Water with some trepidation. I dreamed that it would be more of a return to the older days, rather than a continuation of the current Spongebob run, but realistically speaking, this probably wouldn’t be the case. Seeing Stephen Hillenburg (who left the show after the movie – another reason why I thought the show lost its luster) return as executive producer, I had hopes again. Paul Tibbitt acts as the director, who had directed some of the best episodes of the early Spongebob days, but had also been the showrunner during what I think was the show’s decline – I had some mixed, but still hopeful feelings about this.
And so, with all of this in mind, let’s actually dive into the film, shall we?
Okay! Film has been watched!
I mean, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the original. Where The Spongebob Movie had off-kilter-but-still-quite-funny humor, Sponge Out of Water goes off-kilter too, which works sometimes and sometimes not. Sometimes it goes off-kilter to the point where you cringe, or where it’s not even that funny, which is unfortunate.
It does go semi-live action, too – where Spongebob and co. become 3D models and end up interacting with the real world. The live action bits themselves are sort of fun to watch, but I also noticed that there was also a loss of humor (barring a couple of jokes that were pretty good) compared to the previous traditional 2D segments.
The plot itself, I noticed, is mostly a similar rehash of earlier episodes and a more (unfortunately) generic storyline, with Plankton again trying to steal the Krabby Patty. Villains come out of nowhere with magic items that are used out of nowhere and in retrospect, the story doesn’t really make that much sense. Where does Burger Beard come from? How does the book do what it does? How the heck do you make a time machine out of a photo booth? I’m not saying that the movie has to make sense – it’s a cartoon, and Spongebob has done wackier stuff (he’s saved the world with rock) – but it goes back to the weaker humor, where it would have to be more funny to be more acceptable, and it’s not.
It’s sad, because I did feel that they tried getting back to the feeling of older Spongebob episodes with this one. Some jokes really hit home and reminded me of the older seasons. However, that “something” that was lost with later Spongebob seasons really did end up affecting this movie for me. It’s not terrible, but not really necessary. In some respects, that’s a worse fate than being a bad movie. It’s mediocre. I would recommend a one-time watch, maybe.
Someday, Spongebob. Someday.