‘The School for Good and Evil’ is not so good

New adaptation is discombobulated


Fair use from Netflix

Anya Panday

The beloved young adult fantasy book series, “The School for Good and Evil,” has been a widely loved spin on fairy tales since 2013. Due to its popularity, Netflix recently picked up the book series with the intent to adapt it into an equally endearing movie. As one of the many people who enjoyed the books when I was young, I was anxious to see if the film would do the series justice. Though there were some questionable executive choices, I was surprised that the movie was okay. Even if the movie was undeniably made for a younger audience, it was still entertaining, albeit underdeveloped.

The movie follows the story of two girls, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sophia Wylie). They find themselves at a school dedicated to training the next generation of fairytale heroes and villains. Both believe they’ve been placed in the wrong school, with one training to become a villain and the other a hero. The girls face an identity crisis while evil begins to take over the school and they have to learn to become more than their labels to fight back.

The acting throughout the movie was what you’d expect from a Netflix adaptation, which is usually mediocre, but it didn’t particularly stand out to me. Wylie did a great job fulfilling the purpose of her character — which is to be a 12-year-old’s idea of a “true” princess. Caruso gave an honest performance of a character who’s generally not a good friend and it was nice to see her performing again after leaving Broadway in 2020. While everyone acted well, I wanted more from Charlize Theron (Lady Lesso). Her character had such a detailed past and was one of the more complex and developed characters within the movie and I was looking for that to shine in her acting. It felt like Theron played it safe, and resigned Lady Lesso to being an average side character, rather than reaching the potential depth the character could’ve been given.

My main concern was never with the acting — it was with the plot. I was worried that this would be a repeat of the Percy Jackson adaptation scandal, with several major plot points cut out for the sake of time. Instead, “The School for Good and Evil” tried to fit everything in, and in turn, sacrificed the movie’s clarity. The first book has a main plot along with several entertaining side plots. The movie tried to capture this but lacked the straightforward main story that the book had. I found it hard to concentrate during the movie. Whenever they switched to developing supporting characters and plots, I lost track of where the main plot was and struggled to catch up on what I missed. I wish they had adapted the book into a TV series, so they could explore the entertaining side stories in the book freely without losing sight of the overarching main plot.

The character development was still gratifying despite the unfocused plotlines. The relationship between Agatha and Gregor (Ally Cubb) was endearing and genuinely funny. As far as the soundtrack and costumes go, the creative team did an outstanding job. From Britney Spears and Olivia Rodrigo to classical symphonies, featured musicians did a great job using music to set the tone of all the scenes. But I can’t lie and say I didn’t cringe when Caruso strutted down a hallway full of students in an “emo outfit” with “you should see me in a crown” by Billie Eilish in the background. Despite that one mishap, costumes were consistently stunning. Trading out the typical uniforms from the book for pastel princess dresses and “ugly” villain outfits was a choice that helped visualize the divide at the school — and make the ending even more impactful. My favorite costume had to be Sophie’s dress at the beginning of the movie — it was beautiful and princess-like but still had a homemade feel.

The only questionable creative aspects were the special effects. The CGI was poorly done and ruined the beautiful atmosphere set by the music and costumes. The almost blurry fairies and terrifying wolfmen who looked like they had been plucked out of a late 2000s wolf-clan simulator didn’t do the beautiful fantasy world of the books justice. With Netflix’s budget, I expected much more.

“The School for Good and Evil” has a lot of potential and almost succeeded in reaching it. If the creative team and director had taken a step back, focused on the core plot and invested more time into the characters and world-building, the movie could’ve been perfect. Instead, the film felt half-baked and left me confused and wondering what I’d just watched. If a sequel to the film is produced, I hope they take more time to craft the sequel with care — and truly do justice to the books.

“The School for Good and Evil:” ★★★☆☆