A talking sea sponge in lederhosen makes for arguably the most bizarre but absorbing children’s idol since The Clangers. Animated with the old paper-and-paint method, Stephen Hillenburg’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is as charmingly surreal as the cartoon series on which it’s based, taking the softheaded hero (Tom Kenny) on the road for a cute coming-of-age story. It’s occasionally weighed down by its own weirdness, but support from the likes of Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson helps buoy up proceedings.
SpongeBob and his starfish sidekick Patrick (Rick Faggerbakke) embark on a road trip through a murky, underwater world to recover the crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor). The quest has something to do with saving the Krusty Krab burger franchise, impressing the King’s daughter (Scarlett Johansson), concealing his bald spot – oh, and growing up. Holding together this crazy patchwork of ideas is a very slender thread of logic, but that’s beside the point.
“WAY OFF THE BEATEN TRACK”
Hillenburg goes way off the beaten track to provide some unexpected chuckles, like Alec Baldwin’s mysterious biker evoking John Goodman in the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona. In a small role David Hasselhoff also prompts a few laughs, doing a straight-faced send up of his Baywatch alter ego – complete with digitally enhanced pecs. Occasionally though, Hillenburg squeezes the joke dry. For example, a sea monster’s tongue disguised as an old lady selling ice cream isn’t funny; it’s just creepy and wrong. A handful of similarly off-kilter gags means the story lags in places, but even when it misses the mark, SpongeBob drips with originality.