THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: Best friends Sophie and Agatha find their bond put to the test when they're whisked away to a magical school for future fairy-tale heroes and villains.
The magic just keeps getting bigger on the small screen with the Netflix release of Paul Feig’s cinematic adaptation of the 2013 best-selling young adult novel, The School for Good and Evil.
Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) are best friends who lives in a small village called Gavaldon. Sophie dreams of becoming a princess and leaves Gavaldon behind while Agatha just wants people to stop calling her a witch until one day they are both transported to a magical learning institution called School for Good and Evil (SGE). Sophie is dropped off at the School for Evil to learn to be a proper witch and ironically, Agatha is at the School for Good with the rest of the Princesses.
Desperate and thinking they are on the wrong side, Sophie and Agatha scramble to escape their fate not knowing that they are trapped in a vicious coup planned by none other than Rafal (Kit Young), the evil twin brother of the School Master (Laurence Fishburne).
Comparing this to the first Harry Potter is obvious given the number of similarities. Instead of a sorting hat, we have bony flying birds to drop them direct at the doorstep of the respective schools. While Hogwarts has its Dumbledore, Snape and McGonagall, we have Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron), the Dean of the School of Evil and Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington), Dean of the School of Good and Michelle Yeoh as Anemone, the Professor for Beautification. Then of course, there are the variety of magical classes the students have to attend.
Paul Feig and screenwriter David Magee (Finding Neverland, Life of Pi) sure packed in as much exposition as possible into the movie without making it dry and detached to non-readers. Even the dialogue (and soundtrack) sounds too modernised for a period fantasy flick whether its intended or not. It all feels similar and cheesy yet compelling to a certain extent when you realised that all supposedly classic stories of good versus evil that we knew of are born in this school and the students are actually offspring of Captain Hook, King Arthur and more.
No matter what, there’s a limit to every YA material out there. And The School for Good and Evil starts to see its cracks by its third act with its seemingly never ending twists and convoluted definition of good and evil. Sure, there are lots of CGI enhanced action and magic spells to keep every eyeball busy. The production design especially the costumes are also flawless. Two stars for Feig and his team.
Talking about stars. Charlize Theron is deliciously evil as Lady Lesso and the two young leads, Sophia Anne Caruso and Sofia Wylie often lands with the right amount of emotion. Not to divulge any further, Yeoh and Fishburne are mostly wasted right here. Adding to the star-studded affair is Cate Blanchett who lends her voice as the narrator/the Storian. Another star for Feig and his team.
Feig obviously received a lot of backlash for his 2016 reboot of the Ghostbusters. Still, the filmmaker who is known for his collaborations with female stars turned in yet another commercial worthy, visually enriching fest. Is it good enough for another gothic fantasy sequel which the ending hints? Probably.
Review by Linus Tee