That sound! That insane (and insane-making) sound! What can it be?
Aw, come on. Fess up. You recognize that sound. It’s the sound of SpongeBob laughter.
Giddy. Demented. Annoying. Torturous, even.
If you don’t believe that last, then just ask a certain Mr. Plankton, on whom the SpongeSound is used as an actual instrument of torture in “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” causing the one-eyed green grump to plead hysterically for the torment to cease.
And what possible response there be to such a sonic assault? There is but one:
“HA! HA! HA! HAAA!”
Which is to say, this megadose of Spongeyness is laugh-out-loud funny. A lot.
Adrip, I say, adrip with pop-cultural references ranging from Ennio Morricone’s Man-with-No-Name musical stings to “Mad Max” wardrobe choices — as the apocalypse suddenly breaks out in Bikini Bottom, turning the denizens into mohawked berserkers, Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown) snarks to the boggled Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), “I hope you like leather” — this latest SpongeBob SquarePants movie is funnier by far than its 2004 predecessor, “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”
With Antonio Banderas — a significant upgrade from the first movie’s David Hasselhoff — hamming it up shamelessly as the picture’s live-action pirate villain, resplendent in a ridiculous long wig and megafakey scraggly beard, the plot pivots around the pirate’s purloining of the secret formula for Krabby Patties, the signature “greasy little sandwich” of the SpongeBob world.
Mr. Krabs is frantic, Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) is peeved (he wanted to filch the formula himself, but the pirate beat him to it), and SpongeBob (screeched, as in the TV show, by Tom Kenny) wants desperately to retrieve the document so he can return to his life as a happy little fry cook at the Krusty Krab, the Bottom’s most favored eatery.
Time travel is worked into the story by director Paul Tibbitt and his writers, and it’s a twist that justifies the use of 3-D in ways unmatched by few other movies these days. Cribbing the slit-scan effect popularized in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and going all 3-D with it makes for a very trippy viewing experience as the characters rocket through time.
The 3-D also is effective when SpongeBob and pals depart the 2-D animated world of Bikini Bottom and venture onto dry land where they mingle with gargantuan live-action humans as they track the pirate to his ship-turned-food truck from which he sells his version of Krabby Patties.
Through it all, SpongeBob remains his sweet and shrieky self. We’re taken into his brain — and yes, he actually has one — and see it’s a happy place full of ice cream cones and cupcakes and, awww — Wouldn’t you know it? — an adorable fluffy kitten. Sweet!
There’s even a message mixed in here, and it’s pounded in pretty hard, about the value of teamwork directed toward a common goal: Let’s all of us work together to get that formula. And that includes you, Plankton.
And then, Krabby Patties forever!