You know it’s half-term when talking animals (or, in this case, domestic cleaning tools and sea creatures) define a significant chunk of the week’s releases. This feature-length spin-off from the very successful Nickelodeon cartoon series is a welcome, uncynical affair. For starters, it’s a good sign when an animated movie is not rammed desperately to the rafters with well-known voice talent. Here, Scarlett Johansson and Alec Baldwin offer cameos, but the anonymous voices and simple, day-glo aesthetic of the TV series remain intact as SpongeBob and his dopey starfish sidekick Patrick are forced to quit their jobs at a submarine fast-food joint in order to rescue the stolen crown of their King Neptune. It’s simple road-trip stuff, with just enough nudge-wink humour to prevent most parents from reaching for the tranquillizers.
Is there a subversive gay subtext to all this, as some representatives of the American Christian right have argued? It’s certainly got camp value – Patrick ends up in fish-nets and there’s a live-action cameo from David Hasselhoff himself – but anyone expecting anything more risky will be sadly disappointed. This one’s ultimately for the kids.