‘The School for Good and Evil’ disappoints with on-screen adaptation

By A. Oishii Basu, Staff writer

Based on the young adult fantasy book series of the same name, “The School for Good and Evil,” directed by Paul Feig, hit streaming platforms within the last month. Unfortunately, the adaptation did not live up to the series’ high acclaim. With elements such as obvious dialogue and unlikable characters, you’ll find yourself asking, “Who am I rooting for?”

With a two hour and 27 minute run time, the movie is in no rush to get to the action. The main story begins in Galvadon, a township in which the characters Sophie and Agatha meet and become life-long friends. Agatha is ostracized for claiming she is a witch, leaving them each other’s only friends. The film follows an odd friendship trope: Sophie is overly perky, in hopes of one day becoming a princess who can talk to squirrels and birds, while Agatha is gloomy and skeptical. 

Achingly slow, the audience is stuck in Galvadon, where nothing but bad exposition happens for far too long before things begin to pick up.

Eventually, reaching the school via a bird made of branches, the girls find themselves in places they weren’t anticipating. Agatha is in the School of Good, where fairies, princes and princesses reside, when she would really like to go home. Sophie is in the School of Evil, full of witches and monsters, when all she has had her heart set on was the School of Good. While Agatha and Sophie are both unhappy, Sophie takes it upon herself to throw a fit, pleading that she’s good.

The School of Good has very draconian principles, holding an obvious bias to gender roles and beauty standards. Agatha, however annoyingly, challenges this. In its own stiff way, the film teaches some elementary feminism to children who might be watching, but unfortunately, it contradicts itself when Tedros, a Prince Charming, tells Agatha she isn’t like other girls — which she takes endearingly. This sets back Agatha questioning the school in the plot. It’s clear the only reason the Evergirls — the girls who attend the School of Good — only have the principles they do because of the school itself. 

As the film picks up, Sophie is lured to darkness via the School of Evil’s founder, Rafal. As she indulges in dastardly acts, she slowly “loses her beauty” by becoming a caricature of a witch. With a large nose, warts and balding long hair, this portrayal of the classic mystic being feeds into a lot of anti-semitic imagery.

It’s clear a lot of money has been set out  for this film and throughout viewers run into familiar faces. Actors like Laurence Fischer, Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh and Kerry Washington are included in the film and every graphic animation was well-done and exciting. The costuming, while not quite on the same level as “Bridgerton,” was definitely following their example. 

Sadly, the budget could not save the sore storytelling.

For the most part the actors and actresses got the job done, but only so much can be done with the words they’re given. From incessant whining by main characters to villains creepily making advances towards teenagers, it isn’t offering them much. Much like the lumbering plot, the lines were unimaginative and unremarkable.

As far as children movies go, “The School of Good and Evil” wasn’t quite set in its teachable principles. Awkward in dialogue and in pacing, this movie invites you to two hours of wincing and second-hand embarrassment. 

 

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