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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) movie poster The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Theatrical Release: February 6, 2015 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Paul Tibbitt; Mike Mitchell (live-action) / Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger (screenplay); Stephen Hillenburg (series creator & story); Paul Tibbitt (story)

Cast: Antonio Banderas (Burger Beard), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants, Gary, Agreeable Mob Member, Waffle), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Rodger Bumpass (Doctor, Squidward, Angry Mob Member #2, Doughnut, Squidasaurus Rex), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick, Male Fish, Eager Customer), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), Mr. Lawrence (Plankton, Plantkon Robot, News Anchor Fish, Mob Member), Matt Berry (Bubbles), Jill Talley (Karen the Computer Wife, Harold's Wife, Ice Cream Cone #2), Eric Bauza (Seagull), Tim Conway (Seagull), Eddie Deezen (Seagull), Rob Paulsen (Seagull), Kevin Michael Richardson (Seagull), April Stewart (Seagull), Cree Summer (Seagull), Billy West (Seagull), Carlos Alazraqui (Seagull, Dead Parrot), Riki Lindholme (Popsicle), Kate Micucci (Popsicle)

Buy The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D Combo • Blu-ray Combo • DVD • Instant Video

Traditional 2D animation has more or less disappeared from theaters, having only disappointed commercially in its too few applications since 2007's The Simpsons Movie. To keep one of their most successful franchises active and special,
Nickelodeon Movies came up with a way to circumvent the medium's increasingly low commercial ceiling. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water adopts the composition of the lucrative Alvin and the Chipmunks and Smurfs movies, placing CG characters in a live-action world.

That approach is taken for just twenty minutes, from the 1-hour mark until 80 minutes in. And yet, marketing ran with that concept, focusing almost exclusively on that new technique in both print and television ads. There's genuine money to be made from deceptive marketing these days. For proof of that, look no further than Disney Animation, who had advertised their fairly traditional princess musicals Tangled and Frozen on boy-friendly adjectival titles and comic irreverence at odds with the tone of their nonetheless enjoyable final product to extraordinary profit. Marketing's emphasis on 3D computer animation likewise worked for wonders for SpongeBob, which put up the biggest numbers domestically and abroad for a primarily 2D animated feature since Simpsons and, before it, 1999's Tarzan.

Though technically a sequel to 2004's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and an extension of the television series that has been running on Nickelodeon for nine seasons over sixteen years, SpongeBob Movie requires no previous knowledge of the franchise. Recognizing that plenty could be entering the movie unfamiliar with the TV series, this film introduces you to Bikini Bottom, the underwater universe of the titular fry cook.

In "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water", Plankton and SpongeBob team up to travel through time and rescue the Krusty Krab's top-secret Krabby Patty recipe.

The always-cheerful SpongeBob loves working at The Krusty Krab, a popular joint known for its beloved Krabby Patties. Next door, Plankton, the proprietor of the unpopular Chum Bucket is determined to steal the secret, closely-guarded formula for the Krabby Patties. Before he can replace it with a dummy note in a bottle, the real formula vanishes. SpongeBob, the only one convinced of Plankton's innocence, blows a bubble that becomes a ticket out of Bikini Bottom, which almost immediately devolves into an apocalyptic cesspool in the absence of Krabby Patties.

The film assumes the familiar mold of a buddy comedy, with unlikely allies SpongeBob and Plankton giving teamwork a try. At the abandoned Taco Haüs, the two construct a time machine they hope will enable them to save the Krabby Patty formula and restore order to their shared home. Their journeys through time allow them to cross paths with Bubbles, a wise dolphin watching over the universe in the future.

Eventually, SpongeBob and Plankton's mission brings them to Salty Shoal, where their plot mixes with our frame narration, that of Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas in the flesh, the film's one kinda big celebrity "get"), a pirate telling SpongeBob's story to captive CGI seagulls. As if his name, occupation, and unruly beard didn't give him away, Burger Beard's intentions are less than pure and require not only that SpongeBob and other core characters (his portly salmon-colored starfish best friend Patrick, Krusty Krab cashier Squidward, random squirrel Sandy) to emerge in three dimensions at a beach full of human beings, but to make themselves over into muscular, powerful superheroes.

Antonio Banderas dons a thick wig and beard to play Burger Beard, the film's live-action storyteller/villain pirate/food truck owner.

I came into Sponge Out of Water having never seen a full episode of the interminable cartoon series or the first movie born out of it. Though I have never relinquished a fondness and admiration for feature animation,
my days of children's television series (and Nickelodeon in general) were behind me when this show caught on. My greatest exposure to SpongeBob was the Mall of America's five-minute "4-D ride" that was, ironically, demolished when Camp Snoopy became Nickelodeon Universe. I have no feelings, good or bad, toward the franchise, though I am aware of its popularity among people even slightly younger than me.

Unarmed with the nostalgia that Noughties kids must bring to this, I found Sponge Out of Water breezily diverting but far from spectacular. It's about what you'd expect from a children's cartoon popular enough to endure for over a decade and a half. Based on its timing, title, and generally favorable reviews, I hoped that Sponge could be 2015's Lego Movie, an unexpected delight bursting with wit and creativity. It certainly is not, but I found it on par with or better than many of its contemporaries from middle of the road animation houses like DreamWorks and Blue Sky. I guess that alone is encouraging when you consider that adapting a 16-year-old television series for a second movie is about as far from original as you can get.

Sponge is not strictly for the kiddies, as its formidable box office numbers illustrated. Walt Disney famously said, "I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty." That's a mantra taken to heart by basically every successful family film in history. Today's animated features proudly wear PG ratings for outlandish reasons. In the context of contemporary cinema, the MPAA's description for Sponge's PG -- "for mild action and rude humor" -- seems deserved, though at this point is anyone taking the "Parental Guidance Suggested" disclaimer with serious caution?

Making his feature directing debut, Paul Tibbitt has been with the franchise since the very beginning. He co-wrote one of the first episode's segments and was one of six scribes credited with the screenplay of the 2004 movie. He presumably knows these characters as well as anyone, even SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg, who takes story and executive producer credit but could never work again and live luxuriously off all the royalties. The screenplay is attributed to Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, a duo behind the Kung Fu Panda movies, Monsters vs. Aliens, and the deservingly maligned Chipmunks sequels. They may be novices to this world, but they know what sells tickets and accordingly pack the film with some bathroom jokes, puns, and just enough wit to get a pass from most teens and adults.

Out of the water, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, SpongeBob, Sandy, and Squidward become three-dimensional by the power of computer animation.

The scheduling was clearly inspired by Lego Movie. The music, which includes three sunny original songs from 2010s hitmaker Pharrell Williams and his mostly disbanded group N.E.R.D., is based not only on the success of "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 but a long legacy of radio-friendly pop songs penned for movies. SpongeBob may make millennials wistful, but there's nothing bygone about this movie, which is shrewdly and effectively calculated to keep moviegoers smiling without eliciting major concern from critics, parents, and even conservative groups who once accused the show of advocating homosexuality.

Even if some of the bits with Banderas recall bad mixed medium movies and bold live-action family comedies, Sponge Out of Water isn't really worthy of anything but moderate enjoyment.

Four months after beginning its fruitful front-loaded run, Sponge Out of Water reaches home video this week from Paramount in a barebones DVD, a Blu-ray combo pack, and the 3-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set reviewed here.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Portuguese); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; BD movie-only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $52.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD ($39.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The SpongeBob Movie looks terrific in both traditional animation and its brief mix of CGI and live-action. The 1.78:1 presentation is full of color and void of flaws. The element is as sharp, detailed, vibrant, and immaculate as you'd expect a major new animated film to be on Blu-ray. The film also makes an impact sonically, with the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix doing its job to distribute crisp dialogue, robust music, and immersive effects in a tasteful and consistent manner.

Marine biologist turned multi-millionaire SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg discusses his involvement with this film in "SpongeBob SquarePants: Out of His World." Bill Fagerbakke IS Patrick Star in "When I Grow Up, I Want to Make Funny Sounds."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD "Super Powered Extras" are divided into four sections.

On the Surface houses the making-of meat and potatoes.

"SpongeBob SquarePants: Out of His World" (7:40) is a fair general featurette.
Key crew and voice cast members discuss the project and what they enjoyed about making it.

"When I Grow Up, I Want to Make Funny Sounds" (9:41) lets leading voice cast members, all of whom follow from the TV show, talking about their unusual and enjoyable calling. We hear from and get to see at work: Tom Kenny (SpongeBob), Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy), Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick), Clancy Brown (Mr. Krabs), Rodger Bumpass (Squidward Tentacles), and Mr. Lawrence (Plankton).

"Becoming Burger Beard" (6:06) turns our attentions to Antonio Banderas' live-action performance and the costume design and hair work applied to it.

Fashion designer Giancarlo Brecht demonstrates why it's hip to be SquarePants. Existential black and white French short "A Day in the Life of a Sponge" lives up to its title.

"Making the Burger Mobile Chase Sequence" (5:40) focuses on the big set piece of SpongeBob and friends as CG characters in a live-action world, specifically how it was achieved with green screen, placeholders, imagination, and post-production visual effects.

"It's Hip to Be SquarePants" (3:31) is an amusing piece in which super full-of-it fashion designer Giancarlo Brecht (played by an uncredited but talented comedy actor) talks about the values of SpongeBob's square pants, which trendy hipsters model around Los Angeles.

In a similar creative vein is "A Day in the Life of a Sponge" (2:33), an existential black and white short tagging along with a French-narrating sponge (with English subtitles) on a mundane routine day.

Marine biologist Sylvia Earle journeys down to Bikini Bottom in "Plankton Rules the World!" Bubbles, the wise universe-protecting dolphin of the future, has his introductory scene translated into a host of languages in the first of two "International Sponge of Mystery" multi-language reels.

Underwater Awesomeness is comprised of three shorts.

"Plankton Rules the World!" (6:21) follows marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle down to Bikini Bottom, where she talks about real plankton and other aspects of sea life. Her serious science and environmental concerns are spiced up with a bit of comedy.

"Bikini Bottom Confidential: Rock Stars of the Sea" (9:28) lets Earle discuss some of the colleagues she admires, who also get to talk about their work. No one can fault the studios for seizing an opportunity to bring some real life knowledge of faint relevance to this entertainment.

"International Sponge of Mystery" translates two scenes -- "Meeting Bubbles" (2:58) and "The Speech" (1:17) -- into more than a dozen foreign languages. There's always room on an animated movie's set for a multi-language reel and there's room for two here I guess.

Follow the bouncing burger to sing along with the deleted song "Thank Gosh It's Monday." Still photos of Pharrell Williams and his two fellow N.E.R.D. members are animated in the group's "Squeeze Me" music video.

Bikini Bottom Boogie holds three music-based extras.

SpongeBob awakens from a bad dream to sing "Thank Gosh It's Monday" (2:39), his ode to having to go to work, a tune in which his neighbors join him. Apparently, this song was created for the film but deleted.

The three sing-alongs promised on the slipcover sticker follow: "Thank Gosh It's Monday" (2:44), "Teamwork" (1:23), and the film-closing "Theme Song/Rap Battle" (1:51). They all place animated lyrics with bouncing ball (or burger) over the clips.

The section closes with the music video extra for N.E.R.D.'s time travel theme "Squeeze Me" (2:35), which animates versions of Pharrell Williams and bandmates in between clips from the film.

A section of deleted/extended/alternate/test scenes mostly presents those items in unfinished story reel form. The superhero versions of our characters strikes a heroic pose at the end of the DVD's short main menu montage loop.

A Deleted/Extended/Alternate/Test Scenes section runs 25 minutes and 53 seconds.

Holy Mackerel! - SpongeBob is REAL.BIG. at Fathead!
It consists of 14 clips, including the aforementioned Monday song as finished and a variation of it and other songs among the number of bits presented as story reels.

Finally, the Blu-ray has an Easter egg (1:45) of an alternate ending in which Burger Beard tells the seagulls another bedtime story: his own.

The Blu-ray 3D contains one exclusive bonus feature: the deleted scene "Thank Gosh It's Monday" in 3D (2:41).

While the Blu-rays open with streamed trailers, the DVD cannot and opens with trailers for "SpongeBob" TV series DVDs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Its Previews listing repeats those after first playing a trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction. Those are the only extras the DVD gets, perhaps making this title the biggest family-oriented title to date to test Paramount's no-extras-on-new-movies-DVD policy.

Each disc's main menu loops a 53-second montage and excerpt of "Squeeze Me" (which will likely drive you nuts if you're binge-watching bonuses.) Paramount continues to author Blu-rays that won't resume unfinished playback. At least, they let you set bookmarks on the film.

The three plainly-labeled discs share a standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase with ads for SpongeBob toys, apps, and video games plus your Digital HD (UltraViolet and Digital Copy) code and directions. The case is topped by a lenticular-faced slipcover.

SpongeBob and friends make the trip up to the ocean's surface inside the mouth of a whale.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I can't decide if The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water would be best enjoyed by nostalgic young adults or by children who enter with no appreciation for the franchise. Neither group should find this comic outing anything tremendous, but it is consistently entertaining and just creative enough to forgive faults, such as deceptive advertising and playing like one and a third movies.

Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack delivers a fully satisfying feature presentation plus both substance and fun in its fine collection of extras. If you enjoy the movie or are certain you will, you won't likely regret picking up this set.

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Related Reviews:
From the Writers: Kung Fu Panda • Kung Fu Panda 2 • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
The Lego Movie • Puss in Boots • Rango • Teacher's Pet • The Pirates! Band of Misfits • Lilo & Stitch • The Emperor's New Groove
New: Annie (2014) • The Cobbler • Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts • Strange Magic

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Reviewed June 1, 2015.



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