Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 68 percent, based on 125 reviews, with an average score of 6.2 out of 10. The site's consensus reads, "Surreally goofy and entertaining for both children and their parents."
Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, calling it "the 'Good Burger' of animation ... plopping us down inside a fast-food war being fought by sponges, starfish, crabs, tiny plankton and mighty King Neptune." 
Ed Park of Village Voice wrote, "No Pixar? No problem! An unstoppable good-mood generator, the resolutely 2-D [The]SpongeBob SquarePants Movie has more yuks than Shark Tale and enough soul to swallow The Polar Express whole."
Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News gave the feature a score of three out of four: "It's not The Incredibles, or one of those animated features that spent zillions on character design, pedigree and verisimilitude. But SpongeBob is a sweet, silly thing with a child-friendly esthetic all its own." 
Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie retains the 2-D charm of the hugely popular Nickelodeon cartoon but adds a few tricks – a little 3-D here, a little David Hasselhoff there. The series' appeal never lay in its visuals, however. 'SpongeBob' endeared itself to kids and adults through sweetness and cleverness, also abundant here." 
Tom Maurstad of The Dallas Morning News also gave the film a B-minus grade: "Being so good is what led to making the movie, and it's also the reason that many small-screen episodes are better than this big-screen venture." 
Some reviews praised David Hasselhoff's appearance in the film.
Jennifer Frey of The Washington Post wrote, "Getting to see the hairs on Hasselhoff's back (and thighs, and calves) magnified exponentially is perhaps a bit creepy. Like the movie, it's all in good fun." 
Nancy Basile of About.com, who gave the film four out of five stars, wrote that Hasselhoff "must have a great sense of humor." 
Cinema Blend founder Joshua Tyler called Hasselhoff's role "the best movie cameo I've seen since Fred Savage stuck a joint in his crotch and played a clarinet to charm the resulting smoke like a snake."  There's plenty to treasure in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, but for all the spit-and-polish animation and the rollicking soundtrack (which includes an original song by the Flaming Lips, as well as Ween's gorgeous "Ocean Man," from their Mollusk album), this isn't the yellow one's most thrilling hour—or 80 minutes.
Mike Clark of USA Today called it "harmlessly off-the-cuff — but facing far more pedigreed multiplex competition ... SpongeBob barely rates as OK when compared with The Incredibles."