In “The School for Good and Evil,” “Harry Potter” and “Descendants” are combined with a hint of “Romeo and Juliet.” It is indeed as crammed as that sounds.
With a running duration of 2 12 hours, this vast, magnificent trip is likewise far too long, but rarely do we catch any glimmers of the exceptional filmmaking skill that consistently makes Paul Feig’s movies so compelling. As he did with “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” and “A Simple Favor,” he is once again depicting a tale of female friendship, complete with all of its highs and lows and unique problems. Of course, the outfits are stunning as well; the renowned sartorial director would never cut corners there.
Excessive focus on CGI-heavy action sequence
But the excessive focus on CGI-heavy action sequences eats up all of these potentially strong elements—as well as a brilliant ensemble that includes Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, and Michelle Yeoh. Both empty and never-ending, they frequently make you wonder what is happening and why we should bother.
The main characters of “The School for Good and Evil,” which is based on the popular children’s book series by Soman Chainani, are two very different teenage best friends who watch out for one another in a harsh, fantasy setting. With a cruel stepmother and small stature akin to Cinderella, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) escapes the drudgery of everyday life by conversing with woodland creatures and creating fanciful dresses. Agatha (Sofia Wylie), who is considerably taller and has wild hair, lives with her mother in a cottage in the woods where they mix potions together. She has a hairless cat named Reaper and wears all-black clothing, indicating that she must be a witch. The strongest parts of the movie are these straightforward, early scenes where the girls enjoy their warm, funny friendship, helped by Cate Blanchett’s beautifully honeyed narration. Caruso and Wylie make their connection seem genuine despite the caustic dialogue in the script, which was co-written by co-writers David Magee and Feig.
Young generation Learning to refine powers
The next generation of magical young people learns to refine their powers at The School for Good and Evil, which is comprised of two adjacent castles joined by a bridge, but one day a huge bird scoops them up and flies away with them. This equilibrium was long established by a pair of brothers, as we witness in the movie’s prelude; this enchanted institution makes sure that neither side may triumph fully. Sophie naturally believes Agatha will travel to the building covered in fog, while she will end up on the sunny side of the divide. However, they assume there must have been an error when the bird drops Sophie on the bad side and Agatha on the good side and struggle to switch places. But quickly, their genuine personalities emerged. This is a potentially interesting idea, and a great opportunity for kids to learn about the insidious power of prejudice. And the production design on both sides is enjoyably over-the-top in its contrasting extremes: the School for Good essentially looks like a wedding cake you could live inside, while the School for Evil is like a goth version of Hogwarts. Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus—who also designed the clothes in Feig’s sharp and sexy “A Simple Favor”—makes the dresses these young women wear not just distinct in vivid and inspired ways, but they evolve accordingly as Agatha and Sophie tap into their authentic selves.
Again, lots of intriguing pieces here, and we haven’t even mentioned Washington as the perpetually perky head of the good school, with Theron vamping as the evil school’s leader. There’s just so much going on in this movie in terms of plot and visual effects that supporting players like Yeoh and Laurence Fishburne get frustratingly little to do. The film also squanders the talents of Rob Delaney and Patti LuPone early on in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles. The script consistently gets bogged down in world-building exposition and flashbacks—the mythology of how this place works is dense and not terribly compelling—and there are so many students on both sides of the bridge that there’s little opportunity for characterization.These volumes were written by Chainani as a series, giving him much more time and room for development.
Here, classmates are reduced to only one characteristic, and, like in the Disney “Descendants” films, the majority are the descendants of well-known historical personalities like Prince Charming, King Arthur, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. In a movie full of them, Sophie’s forbidden affair with the handsome Tedros (Jamie Flatters) is just one more. And as the film races toward its finale, a bewildering variety of twists are in store.
The School for Good and Evil seeks to subvert cliches and reveal some important truths somewhere behind the chaos and mayhem—the flung fireballs, swirls of blood, and sword fights choreographed to Billie Eilish and Britney Spears songs. At the good school, the popular clique is full of bullies; at the terrible school, the oddballs and misfits are actually devoted and nice. Going along to get along might not be the best course of action, but being ambitious isn’t always a bad thing. But because the movie has so many different endings, which prolongs its already lengthy runtime, it takes a while for anyone to find any kind of happily ever after.