American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Zany and zippy as you’d expect, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” remains true to the surrealism of its animated television roots. But it also tries to force a live-action element which isn’t as comfortable a fit as a certain pair of symmetrical trousers.
If you’re a fan of the “SpongeBob SquarePants” series—which has been a multimillion-dollar juggernaut for Nickelodeon for the past 15 years—you’ll be happy that all the elements that give the show its distinctive voice remain intact. The wordplay and sight gags, the bright colors and blink-and-you’ll-miss them details—they’re all on vibrant display in this second feature-length film, following 2004’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”
The comedy from director Paul Tibbitt (a longtime writer and executive producer on the series) and Mike Mitchell (who helmed the live-action segments) doesn’t necessarily further the characters or their story or provide any depth. It just offers a good time for a longer time. Trouble is, it feels like Tibbitt and Mitchell have made two totally separate films and then slammed them together, with shifts in visuals and tone which feel rather jarring.
Mind you, I’m looking at this from the perspective of a grown woman who’s reviewed films for a living for the past 16 years. Your kids won’t be nearly so analytical/uptight/whatever you want to call it. They’ll have a blast. I brought my 5-year-old son and one of his little school buddies to a recent screening and they were literally jumping up and down, dancing and giggling their heads off. In theory, this is all that matters. But “SpongeBob” often also works on a much more adult level with subversive humor and pop-culture references that surely will go over your young ones’ heads.