There's something approaching the side of the pirate ship and from the crow's nest comes the cry that a dinghy has been spotted. Suddenly the vessel is all hubbub while the crewman rowing the boat yells that he has treasure as he is lifted aboard with the chest. The captain (Bart McCarthy) gingerly lifts open the lid and his face lights up; reaching in, he grabs the treasure and holds it aloft for all to see: tickets for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie! They set sail for the nearest multiplex and on arriving buy a ton of popcorn and pile into the theatre, filling up the front rows. Now we can begin...
After an opening like that, which apparently has very little to do with the rest of the film, you can imagine how irreverent the rest of the film is. Certain television cartoons are awarded a cult following of adults (yeah, The Simpsons, but that's not necessarily animation for kids only) and after The Powerpuff Girls ended, SpongeBob Squarepants moved in to to take the crown of the cartoon grownups liked ironically, or perhaps not so ironically. It was a genuinely funny series, and more importantly genuinely successful so a big screen adventure was the obvious next step.
As with many such translations to the cinema, a big idea had to be found for the movie, but really it's the same old "characters have to go on a quest to find the important object" yarn. Luckily the plot isn't massively vital, as it's the relentlessly absurd gags that keep you watching, ranging from daft wordplay to cheerfully disgusting imagery. Stephen Hillenburg was the man behind all this (sadly his previous creation, Rocko's Modern Life, didn't make it that far), inventing the basic story and having a hand in the script, and you can see the care and attention that has been brought to the project.
Fans of the series won't be disappointed, but neither will newcomers. The voice cast return, with Tom Kenny as SpongeBob and Bill Fagerbakke as his best friend Patrick the starfish, and this time there's pride before a fall for the little yellow protagonist as he believes he will be promoted to manager of the restaurant he works at now the enterprising owner, Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown), is opening a new, identical restaurant right next door to the one he already has. However, it's colleague Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) who gets the job and SpongeBob humiliates himself at the grand opening ceremony. And so does Patrick.
In an especially over-involved set up, arch-villain Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) sees this as the ideal opportunity to put Plan Z into action and take over the world (well the undersea town of Bikini Bottom, at any rate) when he steals the crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor) and Mr Krabs gets the blame. To save him, SpongeBob and Patrick must, yes, go on a quest to reclaim it - in between bouts of tears - as persuaded by Neptune's daughter Mindy (Scarlett Johansson). Naturally this is all about a message of self-improvement and belief and our heroes find out that it's okay to be who they are and enjoy trivial and silly stuff (a message to the adults watching, too?), but it's really about making David Hasselhoff look even more insane for the good of laughter. Highly amusing throughout, the movie also puts faith in the power of rock for its finale. Music by Gregor Narholz.