Netflix's The School for Good and Evil earns mixed reviews, as critics call it both "derivative" and "a fun fantasy ride"

Michelle Yeoh, Charlize Theron, and Kerry Washington in Netflix's The School for Good and Evil
(Image credit: Helen Sloan/Netflix)

As suggested by its title, there's no such thing as middle ground in the world of new fantasy movie The School for Good and Evil – you're either a hero or a villain. The same can be said, it seems, for the Netflix film's polarized first reviews, which claim it's both "a disaster" and "humorous", "frothy" and "fun".

Directed by Bridesmaids' Paul Feig, the flick is based on the six-book series of the same name by Soman Chainani – the first of which was published back in May 2013. Adapted to screen by Vanessa Taylor, David Magee, and Feig, it centers on Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie), a couple of free-spirited best friends who are kidnapped and taken to the titular enchanted academy.

As their fortunes are reversed, the girls are forced onto opposing sides: Sophie, originally believed to be a princess, sent to the School for Evil, and Agatha, an oddity who is assumed to be a witch by the villagers, sent to the School for Good. With their bond put to the test, the pair must rebel against each of their divided worlds and work together to escape and return home. Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, Laurence Fishburne, and Charlize Theron also star.

The Guardian's Charles Bramesco calls it a "Harry Potter rip-off" in his one-star review, declaring that it's "overlong, bland and utterly devoid of magic." Elsewhere, IndieWire's David Ehrlich writes: "The School for Good and Evil is never as much of an eyesore as the latter-day Tim Burton movies that appear to have inspired it, but its garish colors and flagrantly foul CGI wizardry only contribute to the movie's pervasive tackiness."

"An unmitigated slog, filled with underdeveloped characters, absolutely terrible dialogue, and a world that feels both completely ripped off from better things and unnecessarily complex," The Playlist's Marya E. Gates states.

New York Times critic Maya Phillips describes it as "a muddle of clichés and inconsistencies" in their write-up, but adds that it boasts "just enough charm and cleverness to keep you watching." Pajiba's Sara Clements was more positive, too, arguing The School for Good and Evil is "dark, bloody, and humorous as it rewrites the origin of fairy tales." She continued with the caveat: "By being a combination of stories, however, it faces a conundrum. Its familiarity and predictability will either be accepted or scolded."

"The School for Good and Evil delivers dynamic performances from main and supporting characters and is a fun fantasy ride for tweens and teens alike," writes Lola Lambchops' Tania Lamb.

"The School for Good and Evil is an exposition-heavy two hours-plus of set-up, intended to lay the foundations for the inevitable sequels, that forgets to be a compelling movie in its own right," says Digital Spy's Ian Sandwell.

The School for Good and Evil, which is currently rated just 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, is available to stream on Netflix now. If fantasy's not your thing, or you're put off by some of the above comments, check out our guide to the best Netflix movies for some viewing inspiration.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.