The School for Good and Evil (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – Best friends Sophie and Agatha find themselves on opposing sides of an epic battle when they’re swept away into an enchanted school where aspiring heroes and villains are trained to protect the balance between Good and Evil.

My Take – With the much beloved Harry Potter franchise finally fading away (for now) with the disastrous third entry of the prequel series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, that released a few months ago, Netflix used this opportunity to fill in the YA fantasy mold by releasing the adaption of the first book in author Soman Chainani‘s revisionist fairy tale fantasy series, The School for Good and Evil.

Sharing elements of both J.K. Rowling’s much recognized series and Wicked, here, writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, A Simple Favor) clearly set out to reproduce a new generational smash with another tale of misfit teens spirited away to a magical cliffside academy.

And as one would expect, the film doesn’t stray far from familiar ideas, but thankfully director Feig and co-writer David Magee (Life of Pi, Mary Poppins Returns) treat the conventions and have fun with the formula by successfully introducing a new broad-scale mythology with the help of an intimate tale about the enduring power of friendship. Resulting in a decently compelling fantasy adventure.

Yes, it’s predictable and non-gritty plot twists might seem like a downside to some, but I wasn’t expecting that to begin with. It’s just light and fun, perhaps also touching in some scenes. It’s pretty obvious that Netflix wants this to be a franchise and given the series of books, it probably will be. But if you have a soft spot for fantasy adventures like the Harry Potter series or something like The Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll probably enjoy this.

The story follows Agatha (Sofia Wylie) and Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso), two lifelong friends who have been living an impoverished life in the village of Gavaldon with Sophie being Agatha’s only friend due to unfounded rumors of Agatha and her mother being a witch. But while Agatha seems set in living out the rest of her life in the village, Sophie dreams of being a princess like the ones in the fairy tale stories she’s obsessed with, and after learning of the School for Good and Evil which trains the heroes and villains of the various stories that inspire mankind Sophie sends out a letter wishing to be enrolled in the school.

And as Sophie tries to run away in the middle of night, she ends up being confronted by Agatha who tries to convince her otherwise, only to find themselves whisked away by a giant skeletal eagle to the mysterious school. But, much to their dismay, Sophie is tossed into the evil program, while Agatha ends up among the spoiled, glittery princesses of the good program. Sophie insists that she belongs in the good school and Agatha refusing to want princess lessons, demanding to go back home to her mother.

However, after talking to the school’s headmaster (Laurence Fishburne), they learn that if Sophie can get a True Love’s Kiss, they’ll be able to prove she’s good, and she can switch programs. At first, Agatha is a little hesitant for them to both stay at the school, especially after seeing a creepy figure made of blood whispering about Sophie’s true destiny, but agrees to stay because it is her friend’s one chance to make something of herself.

Without a doubt, the film is visually delightful and over-the-top in a way that’s strongly suited to the fairy-tale world. Led by cutthroat Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron), the evil school is shrouded in darkness. The evil students, called Nevers, all wear black, ragged clothing and dark makeup.

The good program, meanwhile, is ruled over by bubbly Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington). The furniture on the good track is all glitzy gold, and the girls’ school uniform appears to be exaggerated ball gowns, while the boys wear princely tunics. Each minute is another expansion of the world, revealing more about how the school works. For instance, while the good-program princesses take lessons in smiling, the bad school has an uglification class, because of course ugly is evil in fairy-tale logic.

Here, director Feig creates a dazzling world with loads of cool details, decadent visuals, and most importantly, two compelling characters and their complicated yet deep friendship. Designed to fit, then subvert and smash, archetypes, the two leads of the film and their strong friendship turn the 147 minutes long affair into an engaging watch.

The film’s biggest battle in terms of winning its audience will undeniably be in the sense of deja view as the film does feel like a remix of various films you’ve seen from blockbusters past; however, director Feig show off considerable skills for light-on-its-feet storytelling. Set to modern music, even the battles sequences are fun and engaging, especially the final battle between Good and Evil towards the end of the film. The choreography is occasionally cheesy but not so much as to remove the intensity of the scenes.

Sure, not everything works. Like the film’s least interesting parts comes in the form of King Arthur’s son Tedros (Jamie Flatters), who Sophie believes might provide her True Love’s Kiss. He has some flirtatious tension with both of the girls, but unfortunately, he’s a little bland, a simplistic dreamboat who won’t stop talking to Agatha even though she’s made it clear she’s not interested in him. With that said that doesn’t make the film bad, just familiar and the film does at least seem aware of this aspect so it never takes itself overly seriously and allows for some decent humor in its approach to this well-worn material.

Performance wise, Sofia Wylie and Sophia Anne Caruso do quite well in their roles. They both get excellent support from veterans like Charlize Theron, who reminds you of her role in The Huntsman films, and a super chipper Kerry Washington who knows how to balance cloying with sincere. Cate Blanchett is also given a purposeful narrator role that is vital to the story and plays into the fairy tale tweaks that work well overall.

However, in smaller roles, Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Yeoh are wasted. In other roles, Kit Young, Jamie Flatters, Earl Cave, Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Delaney, Rachel Bloom, Freya Theodora Parks, Mark Heap, and Patti LuPone are effective. On the whole, ‘The School for Good and Evil’ is an enjoyable revisionist fantasy adventure that deserves a watch for its handling despite familiarity.

Directed –

Starring – Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh, Laurence Fishburne

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 147 minutes

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