THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (PG, 88 minutes)
"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" bobs up to the big screen as a thoroughly engaging expansion of the popular cable TV 'toon -- goofy in ways to delight tots and witty in ways to give older kids and grown-ups the giggles. Because it is largely hand-drawn, the movie's simple, coloring-book look makes it a cozier alternative to the computer-generated styles of "The Incredibles" and "The Polar Express." It may run a bit long, but it will induce barely a fidget.
Some moments could be anxiety-inducing for the youngest moviegoers, though, because it's all on such a big screen. Plot giveaways follow: SpongeBob (voice of Tom Kenny), that bubbly yellow sponge from Bikini Bottom under the sea, embarks with his starfish pal, Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), on a mission to retrieve King Neptune's (Jeffrey Tambor) stolen crown. A hit man (Alec Baldwin) tries to squish them with his spikey boots. They make their way through piles of skulls and bones, and face down leather-gilled goons at a saloon, big toothy fish and a sea serpent. They fall down a trench, and a deep-sea diver in a scary metal suit catches them and tries to dry them out. But SpongeBob and Patrick show they're more than mere ice-cream gulping, bubble-blowing kids. And when they need help, real-life David Hasselhoff swims to the rescue in the film's silliest sequence.
NATIONAL TREASURE (PG, 124 minutes)
This improbable action adventure about a treasure hunter-historian (Nicolas Cage) who steals the Declaration of Independence in order to save it and find a treasure is a good ride -- like a big scavenger hunt. And "National Treasure" moves so fast and has such a strong cast and neat factoids scattered throughout that the plot's holes don't have time to gape. It ought to divert plenty of kids 10 and older. Cage has fun as Benjamin Franklin Gates, who has been obsessively finding and deciphering clues to a treasure ever since his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) told him about it. Though Ben's dad (Jon Voight) disapproves of the family obsession, Ben can't stop. New clues indicate a map on the back of the Declaration. A villainous ex-colleague (Sean Bean) plans to steal the document, so Ben does it preemptively. A pretty expert from the National Archives (Diane Kruger) decides to help him, while the FBI (led by Harvey Keitel) is on his tail.
There are a couple of harrowing chase scenes, explosions, frozen skeletons in a ship buried in Arctic ice, nonlethal gunplay, a foot chase on the crumbling scaffolding in a crypt, a pregnancy joke -- all of it quite tame.