Sunday, October 23, 2022

The School for Good and Evil

Movie Name:
The School for Good and Evil
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Paul Weitz
Starring: Sofia Wylie, Sophia Anne Caruso, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Kit Young, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh, Peter Serafinowicz, Earl Cave, Jamie Flatters, Oliver Watson, Myles Kamwendo, Misia Butler, Steven Calpert, Patti LuPone
Genre: Action, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
Director Paul Feig is back, following a string of films that were met with a tepid response, namely "A Simple Favor" and "Last Christmas". This time around he's adapting a well known and popular young adult novel from author Soman Chainani, who has already a series of novels written in this series. The narrative follows the story of two lifelong best friends, Sophie and Agatha. They both live in a small village by the name of Gavaldon, and are considered outcasts by most of the other teenagers in the village. They soon find out about the School for Good and Evil, and through a series of circumstances find themselves there, with Sophie being placed in the School for Evil and Agatha in the school for Good. As Sophie tries to get her way back to the School for Good, they soon become targets for the school's cliques though Agatha soon learns there's more to their headmistresses intent that they have led on. As both girls navigate the school's inner workings and machinations, they also realize there's a larger and more sinister intent behind some of the events that led them there, from a villainous force that they've yet to contend with. 
"The School for Good and Evil" suffers from an obvious issue of coming at the heels of the Harry Potter universe and suffering from the obvious comparisons with it. However , whereas the Harry Potter films grew progressively darker as the narrative went along, this one in particular has a distinct tone, at times remembering more Tommy O'Haver's "Ella Enchanted", mixing lighthearted banter with darkly menacing high school comedies (a magical version of Michael Lehman's "Heathers"). The tone also trickles to the characters, who sadly never get to be much more than stereotypes, from the leads all the way to the supporting and supposedly more colorful characters, whose tone oscillates from sincere and heartfelt, to over the top and nearly risible (and not in a good way). For all the world building the director sets in motion, and the sheer amount of characters that are introduced, the narrative feels rushed, never giving any of the characters enough room to create an impactful statement (or presence). Both Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington are underserved, as is Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Yeoh in much smaller roles, and from a production design statement, this feature bears more resemblances with Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" films (from Tim Burton and James Bobin), more so than the Harry Potter ones (which isn't good either). The cinematography from John Schwartzman is solid, as is the score from Theodore Shapiro. It's a misstep for this interesting director, a questionably tasteful film that is quickly forgotten.