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Teaching Mrs. Tingle

Writer/director Kevin Williamson has gained numerous kudos for both Scream and the television series "Dawson's Creek," making Teaching Mrs. Tingle a surprising letdown. Pretty high-school students Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes), Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan), and Luke (Barry Watson) are about to graduate, but a bad spot of luck gets them caught with a stolen test by heartless history teacher Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren). With Leigh Ann's scholarship at stake, the trio venture to the Tingle household that evening, hoping to gain leniency, but a bizarre chain of events (involving, among other things, a crossbow) cause them to tie Mrs. Tingle to her bed and determine some sort of plan that will get them out of the mess. Essentially a comedy of errors, Williamson piles on the plots twists in Teaching Mrs. Tingle as the students and their teacher engage in a battle of wits, but Williamson can't overcome a fundamental problem -- his three chirpy teens are a pack of low-wattage bulbs, easily manipulated by Mrs. Tingle and quick to turn on each other. With lead characters that defy audience investment, only the venerable Mirren remains interesting, but the factors that make her such a hostile old woman are kept from view and only suggested by the film's ridiculously improbable conclusion. The low-farce 9 to 5 (with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman), covers the same ground as Teaching Mrs. Tingle -- surprisingly, this writer found himself pining to see it again. Good transfer, DD 5.1 or DTS 5.1, trailer.

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