The School for Good and Evil Parent Guide
This fast-moving fantasy flick has high levels of violence but raises big questions about morals, ethics, and behavior.
Parent Movie Review
Sophie and Agatha (Sophia Anne Caruso and Sofia Wylie) are best friends trapped in the provincial town of Gavaldon. Blonde-haired and wide-eyed, Sophie is convinced she should be a princess and dreams of Cinderella. But her reality consists of a chaotic home and a thoughtless stepmother. Agatha lives with her mother, an ineffective witch, and is suspected of being a witch herself. She is bullied and persecuted by the townsfolk, with the exception of Sophie, who comes to her defence.
Sick of her narrow life, Sophie makes a desperate wish to attend the rumored School of Good and Evil. Such wishes are powerful, and soon Sophie and an unwilling Agatha are whisked away to the school, located in a fairytale world. It appears, though, that a mistake has been made. Princess-y Sophie winds up in the School for Evil and a very reluctant Agatha finds herself amidst pastel-hued damsels and chivalrous princes. Both girls have new goals: Sophie wants to be reassigned to the School for Good and Agatha wants to go home. To get what she wants, Sophie will have to prove her goodness by receiving true love’s kiss. There’s only one problem – an evil sorcerer (Kit Young) who has marked Sophie as his own….
I suspect most parents will share my concern with one of the plot’s central pillars. The school was created by two brothers to keep good and evil “in balance”. Frankly, I prefer to see evil vanquished rather than kept in some kind of equilibrium. (After all, who honestly believes that Hitler’s Nazi regime should have been kept “in balance”?) This moral equivocation creates a shaky foundation for the film and is its greatest weakness.
On the flip side, The School for Good and Evil does an outstanding job of encouraging viewers to discern good and evil. Is goodness based on appearance and behavioral checklists or does it go deeper, into core moral beliefs and acts? Does goodness win if it hollows itself out to achieve measurable victories? Not only do these questions invite young viewers to evaluate the alignment of their own beliefs and actions, they are key questions in today’s society. The honesty with which this film tackles these questions is the main reason I recommend it for teens. This narrative should help young viewers recognize hypocrisy and engage with their own ethical beliefs on a deeper level, while also driving home messages about honesty, courage, friendship, loyalty, and integrity.
That said, parents should take the PG-13 rating seriously. Despite the occasional moments of levity (Sophie providing a goth fashion makeover for the Evil girls is particularly funny) this is an intensely violent film. There isn’t just a violent final act; the entire movie is filled with scenes of fantastical conflict and mayhem. Characters are stabbed, shot with arrows, tossed around, subject to magical transformations, burned with magical fire, and attacked with “blood magic”. There is plenty of blood, a scene of cold-blooded murder, and a chilling scene where a young man is agonizingly disintegrated by magic. If nothing else, this film clearly depicts the suffering enabled by an environment of moral decay, where “following the rules” and maintaining the status quo is prioritized above doing the right thing or questioning injustice.
The School for Good and Evil is based on the first of a six-book series by Soman Chainani. I haven’t read any of the books, so I can’t say how faithfully the movie brings the novel to life. What I can say is that the movie is a non-stop piece of fantasy action that barely pauses for breath. It sometimes feels a bit plastic but the lead actresses are capable and the moral questions interesting enough that the sequel-baiting at the end didn’t fill me with despair. In fact, I’ll be sure to tune in for the next installment.Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie Agatha, Charlize Theron. Running time: 147 minutes. Theatrical release October 19, 2022. Updated January 20, 2024
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The School for Good and Evil
Rating & Content Info
Why is The School for Good and Evil rated PG-13? The School for Good and Evil is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence and action, and some frightening images.
Violence: There is combat with magical swords and fire. Characters use something called “blood magic”. There’s mention of burning witches. A man pulls a knife on a teen girl. A character is stabbed to death. A man gets hit in the head with a frying pan. Girls are abducted by a red-eyed monster made of smoke. A giant bird grabs girls in its talons and flies off with them. A teen is frightened and manhandled by wolf-headed guards. A character gets bitten by a fairy. A magical character shoots arrows at a girl. A man appears in a column of blood and threatens a girl. A person threatens to throw someone off a balcony. A girl is forced to drink by having her head pushed underwater. A gnome explodes out of a tree. There’s mention of drinking blood. A person is magically disintegrated. A dragon tattoo comes to life and attacks someone. A man stabs a giant bird. A woman punches a man in the face. A girl is chained to a chair. A woman threatens a girl with an ax and then cuts off her hair. Students’ fingers are ritually punctured. Teens fight by hitting and shoving. A character is attacked by biting plants. A scythe-wielding jack-o-lantern chases and attacks people. There is a battle scene with teens involving weapons, fire, and magic. Buildings collapse and people are killed as large quantities of blood ooze from the building. A man is struck by a sword and dies, with extensive blood loss. A main character receives a lethal stab wound.
Sexual Content: A girl kisses another one in a non-sexual context. A guy and girl kiss.
Profanity: The film contains under two dozen profanities with about 17 terms of deity, a couple of anatomical expressions, some minor swear words, and a single scatological curse.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man drinks out of a flask but its contents are unspecified.
Page last updated January 20, 2024
The School for Good and Evil Parents' Guide
Speaking of good and evil, Lady Lesso says, “It’s not what we are. It’s what we do, Sophie.” This is very similar to a comment made by Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. He says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” What do you think Lesso and Dumbledore mean? Do you agree with them? Have you ever made choices that defined who you are? What do you think are key elements of your character? Do you behave in ways that align with those beliefs or characteristics?
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