The School for Good and Evil brings filmmaker Paul Feig into the world of fantasy in this adaptation of Soman Chainani’s book.
This film is unlike anything Feig has done before. Fantasy is not a genre that you’ll find in Feig’s filmography. His filmography is heavy on comedies more than anything else. That said, he’s no stranger to a visual effects-heavy film after directing Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. The fantasy genre, as anyone knows, is a different animal as it is typically VFX from start to finish. However, the filmmaker goes for practical whenever possible. Feig does a solid job in directing the first fantasy film in his filmography. In watching the film, one can definitely understand what drew Feig to the books. Female friendship is something that comes up repeatedly when you watch Feig’s films but it’s something that is even rarer in the genre.
After the cold open, we meet best friends Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) in their home village of Gavaldon. One gets the sense that both want more out of their lives. Sophie is definitely the type that wants an adventure. It’s enough that she wishes to head off to the School for Good and Evil as soon as she learns about it. The School plays home to every fairy tale that we’ve ever heard about. And yet, both feel something is off as soon as they arrive. Sophie, who has dreamed of nothing but being a princess, finds herself in the School for Evil. No arguing will change Lady Lesso’s (Charlize Theron) mind. Same goes for Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington) at the School for Good despite Agatha’s protests.
Both Sophie and Agatha have to fend for themselves. Much like Disney’s Descendants, the duo find themselves facing off against offspring of heroes and villains: the Evers and Nevers. In classic fairy tale fashion, the only thing that can prove their destiny is true love’s kiss per the School Master (Laurence Fishburne). Will Sophie get the prince? Or does destiny have something else in store for her? Watch and find out. But even though this film touches on fairy tales, it’s not a Disney movie. Soman Chainani’s books puts the school closer to the original fairy tales, not the happy endings you see in the films. Will these characters stay within their assigned roles or will they realize their potential? The other question to ask is how strong is Sophie and Agatha’s friendship. This is the joy in watching The School for Good and Evil.
Speaking of the Disney fairy tale movies. This film can be dark and somewhat scary at times and I say that out of my own experience in watching. Parents, maybe watch the film first before letting younger children watch. To each their own, of course.
In terms of set design and such, Feig does as much in camera as possible with this film. It’s very easy to turn something like this into a green screen movie but there still needs to be as much practicality as possible. There’s something about practicality that still draws us into a film as viewers. When it comes to the fantasy genre, it’s impossible to avoid VFX but it’s a question of just how much is too much. The film has the right balance here and never goes overboard.
If you’ve read the books, you’re coming into the film in a better position than others. You don’t necessarily need to read the book before seeing the film. Feig and company crushed it in terms of bringing life to the best-selling book series. Whether this is a franchise-starting film remains to be determined. While a part of me wishes I could have seen it in theaters, the film runs two and a half hours long so prepare to hit pause at some point because there will probably be at least one bathroom break.
The School for Good and Evil is different than the typical Disney fairy tale movie but it’s still an entertaining two and a half hours.
DIRECTOR: Paul Feig
SCREENWRITERS: David Magee and Paul Feig
CAST: Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Flatters, Kit Young, Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Delaney, Mark Heap, Patti LuPone, Rachel Bloom, Cate Blanchett, with Kerry Washington and Charlize Theron
Netflix will release The School for Good and Evil on October 19, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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