REVIEW: ‘The School For Good And Evil’ Attempts To Take The YA Fantasy Crown

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School For Good And Evil - But Why Tho

The School For Good And Evil, directed and co-written by Paul Feig, is based on the book series of the same name by Soman Chainani. Eons ago, two brothers formed a school to keep the balance between good and evil. Good students, called “Evers”, learn to be the heroes of fairy tales. Bad students, referred to as “Nevers”, will take the place of villains. It’s in this world that best friends Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) are unceremoniously dropped when Sophie wishes to be taken away from their hometown of Gavaldon.

Yet the two friends find themselves in the wrong place. Sophie, who dreams of being a princess and finding true love, is a Never. Meanwhile, Agatha, dubbed a “witch” by the citizens of Gavaldon, becomes an Ever. While attempting to navigate the social structure set up by the schools, Agatha learns that the dark wizard Rafal (Kit Young) has his eyes on Sophie. Sophie, desperate to prove her goodness, attempts to win the heart of Tedros (Jamie Flatters), the son of King Arthur.

Though the book that inspired it is nearly a decade old, it’s no secret why Netflix would want to adapt The School For Good and Evil. Fantasy is making a comeback, whether it’s fan-favorite stories or animated antics. The streamer has been a large part of that renaissance, especially with its current crop of original series. And for the most part, it’s found a winner with this movie – especially since it interrogates the rules of fairy tales. After all, is it really “good” to obsess over one’s appearance? And is it “evil” to speak your mind? The answers to these questions end up giving the film a leg up on its predecessors, as well as some of its competitors.

What helps is that Feig keeps the film moving at a steady pace, immersing the viewer in the world while never overwhelming them with information. Not only does this help sell the whole fairy tale concept, but it also means the two-and-a-half-hour runtime almost flies by. You’ll want to see more of this world (and probably will, as there are five more books to adapt), which is a good sign that Feig and co-writer David Magee have done their jobs. It’s also a surprising departure from Feig, who’s mostly tackled romcoms throughout his career. He has an eye for a fantasy landscape and can craft a great action sequence. Bonus points for scoring it to a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

The world also looks rich and inviting thanks to the work of costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus and production designer Andy Nicholson. True to its name, the School for Good And Evil runs on divides. One side of the school is nearly spotless, with seemingly endless sunlight. The other is dark, foreboding, and coated with shadows. The students also dress accordingly; Evers are given frilly, fancy gowns and suits while Nevers wear various shades of black. It’s pretty clear that a great deal of the film’s budget went to the costume and set departments, and I have to say it was money well spent. The one issue is the CGI; at times it looks flawless, and at other times there are effects that wouldn’t look out of place in a PS2 game. Take the werewolf soldiers that guard the School For Evil. The concept of “werewolf soldiers” sounds cool, but the way their heads move feels off.

But what really makes the film work is the two leads, and how they genuinely feel like friends. From their very first scene together, Caruso and Wylie have great chemistry together. They share laughs, they both share incredulity at how the school is set up, and their sense of comedic timing is impeccable. Agatha is incredulous that Evers can be failed for smiling the right way, while Sophie gently tries to fend off the advances of Captain Hook’s son Hort (Earl Cave). The supporting cast is not to be outdone, especially Kerry Washington as Professor Dovey and Charlize Theron as Lady Lesso. Washington’s primness and proper conduct make the perfect foil for Theron’s preening villainy; any scene the two share together is worth clicking on the play button alone. Other standouts include Laurence Fishburne as the school’s headmaster and Cate Blanchett as the voice of a sentient storybook, though the film could have used more of Michelle Yeoh if I’m being honest.

The School For Good And Evil marks a solid start to a potential fantasy franchise, thanks to solid casting and an innovative hook. Whether you’re a fan of fairy tales or not, this film is sure to bring a “happily ever after” to your movie night.

The School For Good And Evil is available to stream on Netflix.


The School For Good And Evil
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

The School For Good And Evil marks a solid start to a potential fantasy franchise, thanks to solid casting and an innovative hook. Whether you’re a fan of fairy tales or not, this film is sure to bring a “happily ever after” to your movie night.

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