Pants on fire.
Like Ed Norton’s Fight Club fridge, SpongeBob’s first movie since 2004 has little of nutritional value – which is just the point. What it delivers is what it promises: a battery of deliciously daft, fast-firing, self-mocking, flavour-rich gags, flung with such zest you don’t mind if they’re disposable.
The opener sees High-seas rogue Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas, having fun) lifting an antique book from its skeleton guard. The tome relates a Bikini Bottom battle between malign restaurant-owner Plankton (Bill Fagerbakke) and cheery burger-flipper SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) over the perfect patty formula, a battle whose fallout includes the apocalypse, temporal paradox, planetary collisions and a word to chill Plankton’s core: teamwork.
If there’s a message there, Kung Fu Panda writers Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel are too canny to cave to it. Instead they wring every drop of goofy, trippy humour from the set-up until the near-anarchic mischief practically overflows.
Even if the visuals aren’t Ghibli/Pixar class, Paul Tibbitt’s resourceful direction marshals 2D surrealism and live-action larks energetically. The CG super-Sponge climax looks dry after the free-flowing 2D stretches, but peaks with a trip inside SpongeBob’s brain, some near-flying ’gulls and the letters of the word “Refunds” landing in your lap. If parents need fun for the kids this Easter, they won’t be asking for any of those.