It’s good to be absorbent and yellow and porous if you’re an animated cartoon hero and your management team is attempting to expand your product line. The star of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is the same poriferan who has become a rainmaker for Nickelodeon. And the best moments in his first movie outing are those that feel most TV-like, just another day in the eternally optimistic undersea society created with such contagious silliness by Stephen Hillenburg. SpongeBob (a Krabby Patty flipper by profession) dreams of becoming restaurant manager; his boss gives the job to crotchety Squidward Tentacles instead; SBSP is despondent and his best friend, Patrick Starfish, tries to cheer him up…tell us more!
In suspending a TV-size idea in feature-length waters, though, the movie snags on Celebrity Shoals, the sandy place where guest-star participation weighs down the light-as-giggles concept. Arrested Development‘s Jeffrey Tambor voices King Neptune, Scarlett Johansson speaks as his daughter, and Alec Baldwin lends a Clint-ish whisper to a hitman. By the time a SquareChested David Hasselhoff swims by in full 3-D human form, poor SpongeBob and Patrick have nearly gone dry on a forced heroes’ journey involving life lessons about bravery, friendship, and all that seaweed — when, really, nautical nonsense is all we wish for.