Despite being set in a fantasy world, “The School for Good and Evil” gets lost somewhere between Disney Channel fare like “Descendants” and more epic theatricals like Harry Potter. The latest attempt to rewrite fairy tales thus wastes a slew of big-name assets, a popular book series, and Netflix’s cash on what appears to be a crash course in franchise development.
On paper, director/co-writer Paul Feig (best known for comedies prior to his female “Ghostbusters” reboot) appears to be an unconventional choice to adapt Soman Chainani’s young-adult novels, and what’s on screen doesn’t change that impression.
If everything goes as planned, Netflix’s latest adaptation could live happily ever after for years to come.
So what is The School for Good and Evil story about?
The School For Good and Evil, based on Soman Chainani’s six-part series, follows two best friends, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie), who are whisked away to the titular institution where fairy tale heroes and villains are created. What’s the catch? While Agatha is placed comfortably in the School for Good, Sophie is “inadvertently” placed in the School for Evil.
The School Master (Laurence Fishburne) insists that his school makes no mistakes, so the besties are left to study under the supervision of Clarissa Dovey (Kerry Washington), the Dean of the School for Good, who gets to do some Olivia Pope-level scene-chewing, and Leonora Lesso (Charlize Theron), the Dean of the School for Evil, who apparently shares a barber with Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka.
While the two best friends find themselves on different paths, the story begins to reveal some of the darkest characteristic moments that surrounded them, and thus, they are on a journey that binds them in their parted ways. They meet again, one another, now, what route would they take that will satisfy them in the end?
Review by Guardian:
The School for Good And Evil – ironically, a film obsessed with shadow and light has no working command of either – tumble besties Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Agatha Christie) (Sofia Wylie). The former is the bubbly extrovert to the latter’s goth-lite introvert, so they’re taken aback when Sophie is sorted into the Evil school and Agatha is placed with the girly girls of the Good. With time and a daunting number of montages scored by such Gen Z-approved artists as Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, they’ll come to see through the blatantly phony divide laid out for them, primarily by Sophie learning that you can look good and dress in black.
Along the way, a slew of actors far too good for this stop-by to debase themselves, including the wonderful Rachel Bloom and Rob Delaney, who each get about 15 seconds, and Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, and Charlize Theron, who round out the faculty.
Sophie and Agatha’s rocky freshman year amounts to a jumbled moral inventory, attempting to claim the “nice is different than good” insight that Stephen Sondheim already claimed with Into the Woods while settling for a watered-down version of Shrek’s irreverent fable mashup. The deeper purpose here, however, is the simple regurgitation of archetypal Potterisms, from the lakeside training sessions to the opulent dining halls to the belief that everyone is either a friend, rival, or crush.
Though there is so much demographic serving that the writing reads like fan fiction, a nagging question remains: why is this film under the impression that its leads, an inseparable femme-tomboy pairing who share true love’s kiss right on the lips in a climactic moment, are mutually platonic galpals? They’re so heavily queer-coded that it’s almost textual, but these characters are denied themselves as if it’s 1961 and they need their parents to believe they’re roommates.