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Leigh Ann is salutatorian when she needs to be valedictorian to get her scholarship to Harvard. The only class she is worse than the leader in is history, taught by Mrs. Tingle, and the teacher hates her. When an attempt to get ahead in Mrs. Tingle's class goes awry, mayhem ensues and friendships, loyalties and trust are tested by the teacher's intricate mind-games. Written by
Well structured, but lacking focus and development. The Mrs. Tingle character is superior, though. **1/2 out of ****.
TEACHING MRS. TINGLE (1999) **1/2
Starring: Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Marisa Coughlan, Barry Watson, Jeffrey Tambor, and Vivica A. Fox Written and directed by Kevin Williamson. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for violence, language, sexuality, and thematic elements)
By Blake French:
As rumor has it, Kevin Williamson, writer and director of the new comedy horror romp, "Teaching Mrs. Tingle," had probable cause to create such a movie. I hear Williamson once had a teacher who told him he couldn't write well, and now, due to his enormous success as such, he is putting that educator in his or her place. Is "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" an extreme telling of his feelings for that individual? Was Mrs. Tingle really the name of his teacher? Will this film be a bad influence towards today's high school students who have a hellish teacher? The answers I do not know. Although Kevin Williamson has written some efficient work in his time, "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" is not the movie to prove to his old teacher that he is indeed a wonderful author. The screenplay shows signs of knowledgeable structure. It contains particularly effective character traits. However, the overall presentation demonstrates just how correct Kevin Williamson's teacher was when criticizing his skills.
The film details the mishaps of three high school students, Luke, Jo Lynn, and the character in the spotlight here, Leigh Ann Watson. Luke is a slacker, caring little about his education or future. Jo Lynn is an average young woman with a crush on Luke. Leigh Ann, however, is almost a valedictorian on the verge of a college scholarship, hoping to dwell in a future of writing. The only thing standing in her way is her non-supportive, although loving, mother and the teacher known as the demon of her school by students and teachers, Mrs. Tingle. She is the person who is going to determine whether Leigh Ann receives the academic achievement award or not, because she is going to grade the history project that will be the final statement in her overall grade point average.
The opening scene develops our hero, Leigh Ann, a with little profundity. We learn of her successful history with her schooling experiences through dialogue rather than actions. Although to some extent this method of character development works here, in order for the audience to care for such an important character, we require more than what is granted. The dialogue is smart and audacious throughout the film, but even such clever words fail to replace the important visualization of Leigh Ann's past. This is very hard material to accomplish with proficiency; only a screenwriter with a firm foundation can exceed with this material. Williamson proves to be not such with the direction of his own script.
Mrs. Tingle's introduction is a completely different story. We experience through actions, motives, character reactions, and decisive dialogue how she is truly the teacher from hell. The audience loves to hate her cruel, devilish personality. This is delivered in an award worthy fashion by the great Helen Mirren, cast with perfect superiority and brings forth one of the most fun characters this year. Her character is played straight and, until the resolving but ridiculous conclusion, is never over the top. Mrs. Tingle is one of the most sought out characters seen in the movies in this year.
The story makes up a near flawless structure. The first act proceeds appropriately as we meet the first plot point, which concludes when Mrs. Tingle accuses Leigh Ann of cheating on an important test. This incident swiftly moves us into act two when the three concerned students hijack Tingle in her own home and accidentally allow things to get out of hand. She ends up being tied to a bed, blackmailed, deceived, and is even shot with a crossbow.
I think the audience needed more description of the side characters. In particular, the Jeffrey Tambor character, Coach Wenchell, or as Tingle calls him, "Spanky." He contributes an important part in the film, but is developed with such little significance, we really don't care that much about him. Obviously, the filmmakers intended to use him as a plot device; to fit the necessary requirements, once again proving that Kevin Williamson hit some major road bumps in his script.
"Teaching Mrs. Tingle" was first scheduled to be titled "Killing Mrs. Tingle," but Dimension obviously lost their nerve and tamed it down to something more appropriate. The film is not as bad as many are saying, and contains some very good material. But in the end, I feel Kevin Williamson needs to be taught a few lessons about screen writing. Whether it be by Mrs. Tingle, or his old teacher, as this film proves, he needs to go back to script school.
Brought to you by Dimension Films.
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