• Nate Adams

'The School for Good and Evil' review: YA fantasy epic casts a lousy and overlong spell


Courtesy of Netflix

 

In another desperate bid to spark a franchise, Netflix’s magic-less, nearly three hour long YA adaptation “The School for Good and Evil” is an exercise in everything wrong with the genre and studios who pour millions of dollars into it. Directed by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids” and “The Heat”), “The School for Good and Evil” is based on the book series by Soman Chinani, which, like most of these shamelessly cash-grabbed films, probably registers better on the page as opposed to the silver screen. What should’ve been a Netflix mini-series, instead logs nine hours worth of material and foundational legwork into a pressed 150-minute exposition fest. This movie has no business being as long as it does. 

 

It’s got an interesting concept and some game performers (shout-out Charlize Theron), but this is a film stuck in the past. During the early 2010s, studios were incessantly trying to snatch up the next “Hunger Games” or “Twilight,” hoping for big profits in what eventually spawned franchise non-starters: “The Host,” “Divergent” and “The 5th Wave.” In the age of streaming, what’s old can feel new again, but “The School for Good and Evil,” despite a semi-decent needle drop of Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown,” is incredibly dull. 


The movie follows best friends Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) who live very unordinary lives in a village that appears plucked from “Cinderella.” Which is fitting because Sophie has always dreamed of being a princess while Agatha doesn’t exactly know what she aspires to be. That all changes when the two are whisked away to the titular school without warning (I wonder what their parents think happened to them?). It’s here where young heroines, heroes and villains go to harness their true potential and are taught how protecting the balance between Good and Evil is crucial for mankind. 


All the familiar, fantasy elements of yesteryear are on full display and the actual School for Good and Evil registers as discount Hogwarts. There’s choppy world-building, shady relationship developments, love triangles, and plenty of drama. Oh, and the set-up gives the blueprint for continued sequels if Netflix viewers tune in, although I’m not sure who, outside of the miniscule fanbase, would give up their entire afternoon or morning to watch a film that’s so uninterested in exploring what made the book series (or these characters) compelling. 


Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ll know where this movie is headed and when exactly the bridge between Sophie and Agatha will divide. About the only noteworthy aspect of “The School for Good and Evil” is the cast, led with some charm by Caruso and Wylie despite David Magee and Feig’s screenplay giving them peanuts to munch on. 


The supporting cast is rounded out by Theron, who chews up her role as the School for Evil’s headmaster Lady Lesso, opposite Kerry Washington’s School for Good’s headmaster, Clarissa Dovey. Unfortunately, neither of them can dig themselves out of the visually tacky hole (and bland hair and makeup design) as the movie keeps regurgitating innate plot points audiences have already heard before. Did you know true love’s first kiss can break any spell? Gimme a break! 


Grade: D- 


THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL is now streaming on Netflix.