When he learned that his pet snail Gary is in the possession of the vain King Poseidon, a despondent SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), along with his best friend Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke), rode a car driven by a robot named Otto (Awkwafina) to embark on a perilous road trip to the Lost City of Atlantic City to get Gary back.
Along the way they passed by a ghost-town called Goner Gulch and saw a tumbleweed which contained a spirit guide named Sage (Keanu Reeves) who would guide them the rest of the way. When they get arrested by the King, Mr. Krabbs (Clancy Brown), Squidward (Roger Bumpass), Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) try to rescue them.
As always, Plankton would spark the whole thing because of his evil plan to steal the secret formula of the Krabby Patty. Goner Gulch would be populated with flesh-eating (and dancing) pirate zombies who were held captive by the notorious El Diablo (Danny Trejo). There would also be a rapping Gambler (Snoop Dogg) in the Inferno Saloon.
Atlantic City would be a glittering and dizzying theme park with all sorts of food, gambling and entertainment for SpongeBob and Patrick to indulge in to make them lose focus on their quest (as expected). The Master of Ceremonies of the venue was Tiffany Haddock (Tiffany Haddish). The special musical guest was a clarinet player Kelpy G, spoofing Kenny G.
To provide the touching drama to balance the silly comedy, there would be flashbacks to the days when the Bikini Bottom gang were still little kids and how they got acquainted in Camp Coral. Of course, these cute scenes would highlight SpongeBob's timeless virtues of cheerfulness, friendliness, kindness and selflessness as lessons to the kids watching. These scenes also served to tease a reboot of the TV show with the characters as kids.
The sunny soundtrack was peppered with familiar pop hit songs like "Dreamweaver," "Take on Me," "Living La Vida Loca" and "My Heart Will Go On." There were also some grooving new songs like "Agua" (Tainy & J Balvin) and "How We Do" (by Snoop Dogg). But for me the catchiest ditty of them all would be "Secret to the Formula" (co-written by Cyndi Lauper) performed by the cast in that fun climactic rescue scene.
I am a big fan of "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie" (2004), a 2D animated feature film which I watched multiple times. This third movie somehow approximated the plot of the first one in which SpongeBob and Patrick embark on a risky mission that involved the King (Neptune in the first, Poseidon in the third).
However, try as it may, this new fully 3D animated installment still cannot match or recapture the rich story and timeless charm of the first film. Anyhow, it was a bit better effort than the second film 2D-3D mix "Sponge Out of Water."
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."