Hollywood Product March 21 2007

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

Genre: Cartoon

Opens: Now playing

The pitch: Someone stole King Neptune's crown and all clues point to SpongeBob SquarePants' boss, Mr. Krabs. Young SpongeBob volunteers himself and his best friend Patrick Star to travel across a dangerous ocean to retrieve the royal headpiece from Shell City, thereby saving Mr. Krabs' life.

Flesh factor: Patrick, the pink, puffy starfish, appears nude in his first scene. And this kids' movie seems to have more booty than a rap video, with SpongeBob's absorbent rear popping out from his pants and a bizarre shot of a flagpole wedged between Patrick's bare butt cheeks. Plus, just about every character is shown in their underwear.

Best line: For the adults, it's when Squidward says, "You can't fool me, I listen to public radio." For the kids, it's less the dialogue than the burps, raspberries, and one-liners like, "You're a knuckle-headed spaz-a-tron."

Pop references: Dennis, a mysterious biker pursuing SpongeBob, evokes the mysterious biker in Raising Arizona, especially with the tight shot of his license plate that reads, "I KILL U." Later, SpongeBob goes into a hard-rockin' tune with David Lee Roth-style scatting.

Hit single: Angsty punk-pop princess Avril Lavigne puts her twist on SpongeBob's theme song, although a throaty pirate version opens the movie. The soundtrack features a surprising number of hipster bands including Wilco, Ween, the Shins and the Flaming Lips. Oh, and Motorhead.

Product placement: Are you kidding? SpongeBob's face is the product and it has adorned everything from shirts, cups, stuffed animals, laundry hampers and of course, sponges.

Cameo: Not only do Germans love David Hasselhoff, but sea creatures do, too. The actor resumes his heroic lifeguard role from "Baywatch" in wacky live-action meets cartoon twist.

Better than the TV show?: Equal. There's enough nautical nonsense to fill 90 minutes without getting tedious and an added "kids can do anything" message. But fans will notice the unfortunate lack of Sandy, the sassy Texan squirrel, who makes only a brief cameo-like appearance.

The bottom line: It's a movie about a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea.

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