Aleasha Hintz — Staff Writer
The School for Good and Evil is yet another Netflix book-to-teen-flick adaptation that will quickly fade into the background of movie- watching history. The movie was bad at being good, and even worse at being bad. It’s campy, stereotypical, predictable, and familiar all at the same time.
Best friends Agatha and Sophie want nothing more than to get out of their small town of Galvadon. Sophie is a naive but loyal dreamer, and Agatha is a pessimistic daughter of a witch whose parentage makes her the target of much hate from her peers and the citizens of Galvadon in general. One day, Sophie whips up a plan to leave the town and enroll herself in a fantasy school: the School for Good and Evil. The girls are both whisked away but dropped at the “wrong” schools: Agatha in the School for Good and Sophie in the School for Evil. Now, Agatha is focused on getting themselves back to Galvadon, but Sophie insists she belongs in The School for Good and works against Agatha’s attempts to return them both home. Their friendship is tested, and things get serious as the fate of the school now lies in their unknowing hands.
I am convinced this movie has no idea what it actually wants to be. It’s a fairytale that is trying so hard not to be like other fairytales, but only ends up reinforcing fairytale stereotypes.
The one that stuck out to me is the correlation between “beauty standards” and good, or “ugly” and evil. The School for Good is criticized within the film for being shallow with its overwhelming focus on appearances, especially among female students, who have a required “beauty” course. It is obvious that the movie wants to criticize this view, but it also has a parallel “uglification” class in the School for Evil that is left uncriticized.
Additionally, in the final battle, the students of the School for Good are marked by ugly scars, injuries, and clothing to visualize their fall from good. I simply cannot see past this attempt at commentary; it is just a downright failure.
That being said, the costumes, settings, and CGI are quite beautiful, despite the subpar narrative. The movie makes up for its contradictory storyline in production quality that was at least visually interesting.
The movie is based on a middle-grade YA novel, and adaptations for books are usually pretty hit or miss anyway. The film is currently rated at 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but the book has a solid 4.02 stars on Good Reads, so the source material is likely not the problem, unless the audiences are that vastly different.
The film clearly wants to be relevant, but it never will be. It just appears to be, as The Guardian put it, a “Harry Potter rip-off” — a sentiment with which I couldn’t agree more.