Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
"Teaching Mrs. Tingle" was originally titled "Killing Mrs. Tingle," but in the four months since the Columbine High School massacre, it feels like a lot more has been scrubbed from the film than just the title. Given a choice between government regulation and revising their own industry guidelines, Hollywood has always chosen to censor itself, thank you very much, and Kevin Williamson's latest film is no exception. Significant chunks of the architecture appear to be missing and not replaced so what we're left with is very much dependent on the skills of the cast rather than the nuances of the narrative. They don't give Academy Awards for flawed teen flicks like this one, but if they did, Helen Mirren would certainly deserve one for every moment of her rich performance.
Handed a caricature of a part, Mirren turns it inside out and gives Eve Tingle a density that appears nowhere in the screenplay. Who is she? Why did she become the teacher from Hell? We don't know, but Mirren does, & because of her wise, intriguing portrait of a frustrated small town teacher, we very much sympathize with her instead of the kids who tie her up and hold her hostage. Katie Holmes is Leigh Ann Watson, a shoo-in for valedictorian until Mrs. Tingle gets her claws into her and tries to frame her for cheating. Along with her best friend Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) & Luke Churner (Barry Watson), who got her into trouble in the first place, Leigh Ann decides to teach her nemesis a lesson.
The acting by Holmes and Coughlan is very strong, although both are still light years away from Mirren's league. Watson, the hunky preacher's son on WB's yucky "Seventh Heaven" series is beyond bad, but so cute that it won't really matter to the fans who worship him every single Monday night at eight. Michael McKean has an amusing turn as the principal and Jeffrey Tambor has an even funnier role as the gym coach who is Eve Tingle's love slave. Molly Ringwald, now 33, is Ms. Banks, who subs for Mrs. Tingle while she's indisposed and Lesley Ann Warren has a blink-and-you'll-miss-her bit as Leigh Ann's mother. The weapon of choice here is the bow and arrow, and the filmmakers bend over backwards to ensure that no one dies so no one will blame their movie for influencing anyone ever.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/18/99
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