The School for Good and Evil (2022)

The School for Good and Evil
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: David Magee, Paul Feig
Based on: Soman Chainani‘s book (series)
Cast: Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Jamie Flatters, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Kit Young, Rachel Bloom, Rob Delaney, Patti LuPone, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Peter Serafinowicz, Cate Blanchett
Seen on: 20.11.2022

Plot:
Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) are best friends, even though they couldn’t be more different. While sunny Sophie dreams of marrying a prince and living a fairy tale life contrary to the poverty of her existence, sullen Agatha – who everybody calls a witch – just wants to be left in peace with her ill mother. When Sophie makes a fervent wish to be taken away to the School for Good (and Evil), something actually comes to grab her. Agatha tries to save her – and gets taken away, too. They both end up at the School, but quite to their surprise, Sophie is taken to the School of Evil and Agatha is the one to end up in the School for Good. As Agatha wants nothing but to get home again and Sophie tries everything to get into the School for Good, they both and their friendship are put to the test.

The School for Good and Evil tries to dismantle some fairy tale stereotypes but only succeeds halfway with a story that gets sidetracked too much. Overall, it’s okay, but it could have been much more than that.

The film poster showing the school of evil on the right, with Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron) and the school of good on the left with Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington), with Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) in the middle.

The School for Good and Evil is based on an entire series of books. I don’t know the series, but it feels like the film tried to cram the entire series into one film. Maybe that stuffed feeling just comes from the myriad of characters and sideplots that contribute little to the overall story except to bloat it.

In the middle of all of that, the heart of the story gets almost drowned out: emotionally, it’s about the friendship of Agatha and Sophie (but we have to spend a huge chunk of the film watch them fight over a guy, yawn). Narratologically, it’s about questioning our portrayal and perceptions of good and evil, especially the apparent correlation between beatuy and goodness. There is also a thread here where we could say that “both-sideism” is evil in itself (though admittedly, that one is a bit of a stretch). But we even lose sight of that in all the boy trouble (can you tell that this annoyed the fuck out of me?).

Agatha (Sofia Wylie) and Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) walking together, holding hands.

The film is pretty to look at, at least when it doesn’t overdo the CGI parts. The performances are excellent, with Wylie in particular making a name for herself. Washington and Theron ham it up beautifully, and Blanchett’s narration hits just the right tone. Yeoh is, unfortunately, squandered a little but it is always wonderful to see her, even if it is ony for a small part.

The School for Good and Evil could have been something, with a little more trimming and focus, and a bit more time – not by necessarily increasing the already considerable runtime, but by not putting all of its story into one film. But as it is, it was all a bit too much.

Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington) and Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron) addressing the students.

Summarizing: okay but definitely not as good as it could have been.

2 comments

  1. I just watched this, and if anything, I think your review is too kind. Apart from the really good performances by Sofia Wylie and Sophia Anne Caruso, as well as the nice emphasis on and portrayal of the friendship between their characters, this was rather awful.

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