‘The School for Good and Evil’ Review: An Entertaining but Overlong Fairytale

The golden age of young adult adaptation is long gone. For a time, every single studio out there wanted its own Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games. Sadly, the many adaptations of young adult books crashed into the ground, leaving us with plenty of fantasy series that never went anywhere and the first chapters of stories that are now incomplete forever. Netflix is trying to bring the fever back with its adaptation of The School Of Good And Evil. Will Netflix be able to avoid the curse, or is this another franchise dead on arrival? Let’s review it.

The School Of Good And Evil is a film directed by Paul Feig and adapted from the novel of the same name written by Soman Chainani. The film stars Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishbourne, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Flatters, Kit Young, and Cate Blanchett as the narrator. The film tells the story of two friends, Sophie and Agatha, who feel they don’t belong in their hometown. One day, Sophie wishes they could go to The School of Good and Evil, where princesses and villains are trained to be in the stories that change the world.

The film’s premise is quite interesting as it places a lot of importance on the power of storytelling and how the stories we tell each other form the minds of the people and their understanding of the world. Stories indeed get inspiration from real life, but then they are molded into something new that ends up influencing reality itself. Storytelling is a very powerful device, and the movie admits it by telling us the stories of two young girls whose lives will be transformed by the power of legends, myths, and fairytales.

Director Paul Feig and his team of filmmakers create a truly entertaining movie that faithfully adapts the book. However, in the same way, that happened with the first adaptations of Harry Potter, adapting an entire book into one film might be too much. The School Of Good And Evil ends up suffering in terms of pacing, as the movie overextends its welcome and keeps going until it finally reaches its end. The journey is quite nice at times, but it is just too long to be a comfortable one.

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On a technical level, The School Of Good And Evil is quite efficient. Paul Feig has never been a master of creating iconic imagery, and he doesn’t really make a turn in that direction in this film. So, most of the shots feel very generic, and the entire film’s aesthetic feels a bit fake. This look might work because we are dealing with high fantasy here, but at times the sets feel too much like sets for their own good. However, sometimes the sets feel very genuine and are wonderful to look at.

That might be the greatest technical issue with the film; it isn’t very consistent. The same goes for almost every department. The costumes can look great in one scene only to look terrible in the next one, and the same goes for the visual effects. There are so many scenes where the visual effects feel like they truly accomplish what they set out to do, while in other scenes they feel unfinished and might take you out of the experience for a moment. This might be the result of a lack of time to finish the effects. Visual artists can actually do magic, but they need proper time to do it.

Outside those technical hiccups, the story is quite entertaining. It is very much the adaptation of a book that is aimed at younger audiences, but Feig manages to make it as adult as it can be. The result is a story that feels very classic, but with a very cool twist that makes everything that happens a bit more bearable in this day and age. The story constantly makes references to popular tales and legends that enrich the world and, for those in the know, might help with putting some scenes in a more understandable context.

What really stands out here are the performances of the two main actresses. Caruso and Wylie. Not only do they actually manage to come across that there is a pure friendship between their characters, but they also manage to stand there once the story separates them and makes them act by themselves in different situations. There are beautiful story arcs for both of their characters, and at the end of the day, those arcs make the movie worth watching.

The rest of the cast does well enough, but they are mostly supporting characters with very little to do during the entire film. Theron, Washington, and Yeoh are completely underused, and their roles feel empty. The rest of the younger roles are mostly background fillers, so they don’t connect or create much drama at all.

In the end, The School Of Good And Evil isn’t the best fantasy book adaptation ever; it has some issues on a technical level, and the runtime is just too long. Nevertheless, the premise is interesting, and the movie is just fun to watch, thanks to the performances of its two leads. If Netflix decides to keep the franchise going by adapting the rest of the books in the series, only time will tell, depending on how many viewers it can attract. Let’s hope for the best.

SCORE: 7/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.