1999; Rated PG-13; 96 Minutes
Katie Holmes: Leigh Ann Watson
Helen Mirren: Mrs. Tingle
Marisa Coughlan: Jo Lynn Jordan
Barry Watson: Luke Churner
Liz Stauber: Trudie Tucker
Jeffrey Tambor: Coach "Spanky" Wenchell
Produced by Ted Field, Michael Finnell, Gina Fortunato,
Cary Granat, Paul Hellerman, Erica Huggins, Cathy Konrad,
Scott Kroopf, Julie Plec, Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein;
Directed and screenwritten by Kevin Williamson
by DAVID KEYES
years in high school are usually the most sensitive and
uneasy to a teenager, because they are a reminder that childhood
is coming to an end, and that, to some respect, we can no
longer depend on the welfare of other people to survive.
Our educations reach almost intolerable heights--we have
to concentrate on good grades, maintain appropriate GPAs,
study school books cover-to-cover, and aim for some sort
of college scholarship. But such a challenge has to be undertaken
in order to survive. Such a problem plagues Katie Holmes
in "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" almost unbearably.
and classes are not what she's worried about, though. Her
real fear is generated by her history teacher Mrs. Tingle,
whose fearsome and almost sickening attitude can wipe out
her chances at getting a scholarship. But the difference
between this situation and ours is quite easy to recognize;
our world is not bound by the typical Kevin Williamson twists,
in which class clowns intimidate slashers, parents brainwash
their children, instructors are inhabited by alien beings,
and women like Helen Mirren are subject to play dreadfully
painful roles like Mrs. Tingle. Our world has real, respectable
human beings in it, not people who recite dialogue like
they were guests of honor on the Tonight Show.
writing the "Scream" pictures, Kevin Williamson has steadily
crept towards becoming a second-rate screenwriter, and his
newest film, "Teaching Mrs. Tingle," is easily the worst
under his belt. Reportedly, the script for the movie was
written quite a few years ago, which is evident in almost
every detail; characters are flat, dialogue is dimwitted,
plot twists are soggy, and the details that fall in between
are either predictably provoked or incredibly cruel and
depressing. As a horror-comedy, it leaves us feeling like
we need hot showers. But for those who are not aware that
this is an early effort, it serves as evidence that Mr.
Williamson's talent is no longer applicable on the movie
Tingle is the meanest teacher in school--so mean that even
the principal fears her. Students fall victim to her rage
very periodically; some are startled by her cruelty, others
targeted. Katie Holmes' character, Leigh Ann, is doing great
in her class, until that shrew of an instructor discovers
that the "smartest girl in class" stole the answers to an
upcoming test. The catch: she was framed. To teach Mrs.
Tingle a "lesson," I guess, Leigh Ann and a few other students
who are victims of the teacher's insanity decide terrorize
her. But like most cruel pranks (ever see "Jawbreaker?"),
things go terribly wrong.
premise is the product of personal hatred. Williamson's
later credits, like "The Faculty," and his show "Dawson's
Creek," are part of an effort to destroy the credibility
of high school instructors, since, as he tells us, one of
his own high school teachers denounced his writing ability,
and claimed that he would never succeed because of it. Before
the "Scream" script, he wrote "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" in
hopes that he could prove that teacher wrong. Unfortunately,
at the time, Williamson had little chance of getting his
screenplay accepted. To become Hollywood material, something
else had to jump-start his career.
then came "Scream," "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "Scream
2," "The Faculty," and others. Their success gave him not
just a boost in the movie business, but a quantum leap,
which has since then garnered him the appreciation needed
from teenage audiences. But even the success of those movies
could not prevent him from revisiting a painful, consuming
past, as seen here. "Teaching Mrs. Tingle," his object of
revenge, is loathsome, sickening, stale, stupid, and monumentally
sophomoric. Unless Williamson moves on from this hatred,
I fear we will be watching him crumble in front of our eyes
before too long.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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