"Who," a salty sea captain asks, "lives in a pineapple under the sea?" Those who don't know the answer to that musical question need not apply to The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, the big-screen, feature-length debut of America's hippest square. No one will accuse The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie of being pretentious, which makes it a welcome rarity in the self-important fall film slate. The SpongeBob character, cultivated on a Nickelodeon-network TV show, is defiantly stupid, a moony-eyed, butt-cheek-centric jester with a heart of yellow.
In this "very big" adventure, SpongeBob's dreams of becoming the manager of the grand-opening Krusty Krab restaurant are dashed when his boss, Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), calls Spongebob's manhood—specifically, his capacity to be responsible—into question. To see the high-pitched sponge (voiced, as always, by comedian Tom Kenny) protest, "I am 100 percent man!" is to laugh: don't try to deny it. The rote plot which follows is a clothesline for such absurd touches, which just barely give the movie enough oomph to carry the day. Kids will have a ball; parents will be forgiven a few cat-naps.
When the veiny, black-hearted Plankton (voiced by the so-called Mr. Lawrence) steals the crown of King Neptune (guest star Jeffrey Tambor), his level-headed daughter (Scarlett Johansson) must work overtime to keep him from laying waste to his underwater kingdom in the process of recovering the stolen item. Plankton, enacting last-ditch Plan Z to rule Bikini Bottom, also steals the popular Krabby Patty formula, ruining the Krusty Krab's business. To prove his manliness, Spongebob recruits his dimwitted buddy Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) and sets off on a dangerous journey from Bikini Bottom to the legendary Shell City.
Spongebob's odyssey (complete with a couple of goofy allusions to Homer's Odyssey) takes him briefly into the real world, where David Hasselhoff makes an unfortunate appearance. Perhaps when the film was still a glint in the animators' eyes, David Hasselhoff goofing on himself was still fresh, but alas, no more. Restoring the film's cool quotient are soundtrack contributions from Ween, Wilco, and the Flaming Lips, among others. The humor may not be terribly sophisticated (despite one character's assertion, "You can't fool me—I listen to public radio!"), but who can begrudge kids their dose of this pure silliness? Grown-ups who don't find SpongeBob cute can just, well, butt out.