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Things Only Adults Notice In The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water

In 1999, Nickelodeon premiered a cartoon series about a sponge living under the sea — not just any sponge, but a household cleaning sponge with buck teeth and an infectious laugh. Anyone reading that sentence might think that the premise sounds ridiculous, but over 20 years later, SpongeBob SquarePants has become one of the most beloved children's characters of the 21st century. Kids of all ages have enjoyed the adventures of SpongeBob, who lives in a pineapple under the sea and is an enthusiastic employee of the Krusty Krab. The show's success has inspired spinoffs such as comic books, theme park rides, and even a Broadway musical. 

In 2004, SpongeBob made his way to the big screen in "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie." The animated comedy might not have wowed the critics, but it was enough to bring families into the theaters, and the film grossed over $140 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo). In 2015, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures decided to team up once again for a sequel film, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." This time, the movie would bring everyone's favorite characters to life in 3D.

The appeal of "SpongeBob SquarePants" is its ability to entertain audiences of all ages. Parents and kids can enjoy the clever humor as well as the over-the-top silliness. So while watching the 2015 "Sponge Out of Water" sequel with their kids, adults will likely notice quite a few things that their little ones may have missed.    

Do kids even go to the library anymore?

The live-action opening sequence for "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" shows a familiar setting — a tiny island with three palm trees. For the first time, viewers get to see what this little isle holds. We are introduced to a pirate named Burger Beard, played by Antonio Banderas, who makes his way to shore and pulls out a treasure map, with "X" marking the spot of his goal. After he makes his way through the vast jungle, evades some hazardous traps, and fights off a reanimated skeleton, Burger Beard manages to get his hands on the prize — a mysterious leather-bound book.

When the pirate returns to his ship, he inspects his treasure. On the inside cover of said book is a card tucked into a small pocket and signed by famous seafarers of yore, along with various time stamps — some dating back to the 18th century. This prompts a comment from Burger Beard about how the book is long overdue.

However, it's highly unlikely that the movie's younger audience will understand the joke. Once upon a time, libraries used an analog system that required patrons to sign their names when they checked out a book, and then a due date would be stamped next to it. Very few libraries still use this old system since everything is done on computers now. Heck, it's possible that only kids' grandparents will get this reference.

How does Plankton afford all of those gadgets?

The rivalry between Mr. Krabs and Plankton has had a long history, as the nefarious microscopic sea creature is always coming up with all sorts of schemes to steal the Krabby Patty formula. Each time, Plankton's plans have been foiled either by his own ineptitude or by the Krusty Krab crew — yet in true Wile E. Coyote fashion, he will not accept defeat.

In "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," it's another day at the Krusty Krab, with star employee SpongeBob carrying out his fry cook duties. The day is interrupted when a plane flies overhead, bearing Plankton's signature eyeball, and drops a giant jar of tartar sauce on the restaurant. This amounts to a declaration of war, as SpongeBob and Patrick hunker down to fight back against Plankton's attack. They shoot down the plane with potatoes, but Plankton comes back even stronger with a pickle-shooting tank that transforms into a giant robot.

Many of Plankton's plans involve high-tech equipment, which begs the question: how does he find the money to pay for all of it? The Chum Bucket sees a dismal lack of sales, yet the gadgetry he acquires must cost serious cash. Does he regularly rob the Bikini Bottom bank? Maybe he and his computer wife Karen are involved in some cryptocurrency scam? Wherever his money comes from, maybe he should invest it in fixing up his restaurant instead of spending it on these ever-failing heists.

Bikini Bottom's apocalypse looks a bit familiar

After making it into the Krusty Krab's safe, Plankton finds himself closer to the secret Krabby Patty formula than ever before. However, SpongeBob suddenly appears, thwarting Plankton once again. A game of tug-of-war ensues between Plankton and SpongeBob with the secret recipe in the center. However, the bottle containing the formula suddenly vanishes without any explanation.

Although both SpongeBob and Plankton try to convince Mr. Krabs of the truth, the restaurateur is certain of his enemy's guilt and uses his most "brutal" interrogation tactics against the tiny villain (subjecting him to SpongeBob's irritating laughter) to find the formula's whereabouts. Plankton escapes, and to make things worse, Mr. Krabs and SpongeBob discover that the restaurant is out of Krabby Patties. As this is apparently an essential source of nutrition for Bikini Bottom, the town falls instantly into an apocalyptic state.

The sudden transformation from normal Bikini Bottom into outright chaos is depicted in hilarious fashion — literally. In the blink of an eye, the town's population is outfitted in makeshift leather armor and mohawks while smoke rises in the distance. This apocalyptic future is derived from a classic cult franchise, the "Mad Max" films. In that futuristic sci-fi universe, gasoline has become a precious commodity, and the remaining population has formed into violent gangs vying for control of it. The homage is one that younger audiences will probably miss, but many parents will likely appreciate.

Kids probably wouldn't get this reference from The Shining

To clear Plankton's name and return everything to normal, he and SpongeBob team up to find out exactly what happened to the Krabby Patty formula. Though SpongeBob is happy to join forces with his newfound ally, Plankton is not exactly the most trustworthy partner. While SpongeBob is asleep, Plankton physically dives deep into his companion's brain to try and find traces of the Krabby Patty formula. What he finds instead is a world filled with cotton candy, ice cream, and terror.

It should come as no surprise that SpongeBob's mind is filled with happy-go-lucky images of personified desserts, yet the overload of saccharine sweetness is too much for Plankton to handle. As he beholds the sugary house of horrors, he comes upon a set of twin popsicles holding hands. The pair try to entice Plankton, their soulless eyes staring as they call to him in an eerie monotone, "Come and play with us! Hurry, before we melt."

As anyone would, Plankton runs away while screaming following the frightening encounter. Of course, any adult horror fan will recognize the reference to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," as the scene is a parody of the twin girl ghosts who invite Danny to play with them "forever and ever" in the Overlook Hotel. Hopefully, this is a joke that only adults will get.

What did they do to poor Karen?

Once Plankton and SpongeBob learn to work together (they sing a whole song about it), they proceed to the next part of their plan to save Bikini Bottom. Plankton surmises that the only way to find out what happened to the formula is to build a time machine, but they will need a supercomputer to do so — and it just so happens that he knows one. The duo makes their way to the Chum Bucket, where Plankton's computer wife, Karen, is being held hostage by the angry mob.

SpongeBob and Plankton manage to sneak past the guards outside, steal a key from a sleeping Patrick, and unlock a secret room where Karen is held prisoner. As the door opens, they find Karen in an ominous room, chained to a wall. Inside that room are various torture devices, including a set of screwdrivers, a magnet, and a baseball bat with a nail sticking out of it.

As if that wasn't bad enough, upon closer inspection, you can see a toolbox with "pain" written on it and "Ctrl + Alt + Delete" scrawled on the wall. There's even a Karen-shaped iron maiden in one shot. When the light from the opening door hits her, Karen yells, "I told you, I don't have the formula, you monsters!" Holy shrimp! What did those fiends do to her? The possibilities are, frankly, quite disturbing.

Adults might recognize Matt Berry as the voice of Bubbles

Once Plankton and SpongeBob free Karen, the three escape to Taco Haus, which, as one would expect, has all the materials they need to build a time machine. After the device is complete, the heroes have a few false starts before they successfully travel back in time. During one of their trips, they visit a strange celestial location — one that resembles the art from Pink Floyd's album "The Dark Side of the Moon." Within a triangular structure in space resides a sentient dolphin named Bubbles, who keeps an eye on Saturn and Jupiter to make sure they don't run into each other.

Bubbles asks Plankton and SpongeBob to keep an eye on things so he can use the lavatory — after all, he hasn't gone in thousands of years. Inevitably, everything goes wrong, and SpongeBob and Plankton watch as the two planets collide. Bubbles is furious, and he attacks the pair with a laser that shoots out of his blowhole. Plankton and SpongeBob make their escape into the time machine before getting zapped.

Fans of British comedy may recognize the distinct booming baritone of Matt Berry, who provides the voice of Bubbles. When the film was released in 2015, Berry was known by few Americans, except perhaps those who were aware of the British comedy series "The IT Crowd." Since then, Berry's starring role in the FX vampire comedy "What We Do in the Shadows" has raised his fame in the States.

SpongeBob's speech has a familiar soundtrack

While SpongeBob and Plankton travel through time, the chaos in Bikini Bottom reaches a breaking point. As a mob gathers in the Krusty Krab, a frantic Sandy Cheeks appears, insisting that the gods are angry with them and they must offer a sacrifice. Suddenly, SpongeBob and Plankton arrive in their time machine to save the day, handing over the Krabby Patty formula to Mr. Krabs. However, it appears that the recipe is a fake, and all of their efforts were for naught. The crowd turns against SpongeBob, suggesting that they use him as a sacrifice.

In response, SpongeBob begins to pontificate on the savagery of the townspeople. As he continues his speech, an inspirational piece of music begins to play, underlining his words. For the kids in the audience, the song likely sounds like any other, but film buffs and adults watching will instantly recognize Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold." The song was written for the classic Clint Eastwood western, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and became famous after that film became a cultural phenomenon.

Only adults will appreciate these punny food truck names

In the final act of "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water," SpongeBob and friends make their way to the surface and into the world of live-action. This isn't the first time they've made such a journey, as SpongeBob and Patrick visited dry land in the first movie, but it is the first time the characters receive the full CGI treatment.

When they finally track down Burger Beard, he is running his own food truck making delicious Krabby Patties. He seems to be doing very well for himself, as a huge line of customers queues up to sample his food. While the kids might be focused on the special effects that bring SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Sandy Cheeks to life, adults will probably notice a certain background detail.

There are two food trucks next to Burger Beard's — on one side, there is a truck called Taco Night Fever, and on the other is an establishment named The Final Meltdown. Adults will recognize these parody names for the popular music of the 1970s and '80s that they reference. One is a callback to the 1977 John Travolta film "Saturday Night Fever," while the other is a nod to "The Final Countdown," a popular song by the band Europe released in 1986. Even if parents feel forced to watch "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water" with their kids, it's nice to know the filmmakers were thinking of them, too.