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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Steven Universe: The Movie is based on the world and characters of popular animated series Steven Universe. Like the show, the movie's content is aimed more at tweens and teens than young kids; Steven himself is now aged up to 16. There's frequent cartoonish violence, with characters hurled into space or "poofed" into cotton-candy like clouds, and viewers hear about mortal danger (i.e. characters have 37 hours to save the Earth) but only see a few drops of blood. One critical fight involves a character merely defending himself instead of fighting back at an angry enemy, which helps defuse her anger. Expect plenty of positive, heartfelt themes that are illustrated with visuals and songs about friendship, autonomy, and kindness; characters admit and learn from their mistakes. Romantic content includes a moment in which a female friend kisses Steven and he blushes; two female characters dance together and sing a song about love. Language is infrequent, but at one point a character calls another a "dingus," and there are two uses of "heck." Parents may want to watch along with kids -- and may be surprised to find depth and emotional intelligence in this uplifting movie.
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What's the story?
As STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE MOVIE dawns, things are looking pretty great for Steven (Zach Callison). At 16, he's confidently using his powers, and all is safe on Earth, with humans and gems alike living in harmony...until trouble arrives literally out of a clear blue sky. The angry Spinel (Sarah Stiles) has come to wreak destruction, carrying with her the Rejuvenator, a weapon that reduces Pearl (Deedee Magno), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Garnet (Estelle) to their most basic forms, before all the adventures with Steven and the other gems turned them into the characters we know and love. Now it's up to Steven and his friends to figure out a way to stop Spinel, restore the gems' memories, and save the planet.
Is it any good?
Bright, colorful, and positively breathtaking in its emotional depth, this beautiful film is a worthy expansion of the animated series. Of the many things Steven Universe: The Movie gets right, Spinel is a fantastically humanized villain. She arrives as a hurricane of fury, smashing and slashing at any Universe-ian that gets close. And in most animated series, that's how she'd stay, a one-note villain subdued by force and vanquished by the end of the show, never to be heard from again. But here, she gets an arc instead. And, just like real people in real life, Spinel's anger is just a mask for pain. Abandoned, alone, what used to be hope and love calcified into rage. As Steven soon discovers (with help from Garnet, of course, in song), empathy and friendship is the key to turning the tide.
There are other interesting things going on here, too, with emotionally intelligent ideas driven home with gorgeous visuals. Fans will already know that Garnet was created when two gems merged. When returned to their original forms by Spinel, Garnet splits into Ruby (Charlyne Yi) and Sapphire (Erica Luttrell), which eventually leads to a stunning sequence in which they dance together, their pink and blue bodies merging into purples everywhere they touch. Pearl's transformation from a robotic assistant to her old snappy self is given heartfelt imagery too, as she and Steven's dad Greg (Tom Scharpling) rise into the sky, each playing their own guitar, singing how they can be independent, together. Tweens, teens, even adults will feel the love for this surprisingly deep adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ideas explored in Steven Universe: The Movie. Spinel's destructive rage comes from an act of terrible cruelty, and her anger is really just a cover for her pain. Is that realistic, given what you know about people and why they do the things they do? What about Pearl's journey? What did it take for her to change from a character who took all direction from others to one whose actions were self-directed?
How does the movie use imagery to tell its story? Consider the way Spinel looks when she first appears, when she's returned to her original form, and at the end of the movie. How does her appearance change, and how does it illustrate her inner journey? How do the colors and pictures change when Steven and his friends are in trouble vs. when they're at peace?
- In theaters: September 2, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 12, 2019
- Cast: Zach Callison, Estelle, Michaela Dietz
- Director: Rebecca Sugar
- Studio: Cartoon Network
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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