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Teenager Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes) is desperate to become her school's top student and win a university scholarship enabling her to leave the small town of Grandsboro. All she requires is an A in history but her painstakingly researched and presented assignment is graded only a C by her cruel teacher, Mrs Tingle (Helen Mirren), who's been terrifying students at the school for twenty years. After mistakenly being identified by Mrs Tingle as a cheat, Leigh Ann, best friend Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) and handsome rebel Luke (Barry Watson) visit Mrs Tingle's house in an attempt to prove her innocence. When rational pleading fails the trio turn the tables on their teacher and a game of wits ensues...

"This black teen comedy is notable as the first movie directed by star screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Overall, it's a bit forced and uneven it starts off with a lot of verve and then runs out of steam midway but is still fairly pleasurable, thanks to the cheap but funny wisecracks and Helen Mirren's star turn as a sort of piss-elegant Wicked Witch of the West. The flip, mildly kinky tone plays to Williamson's strengths: there's a fair amount of structural ingenuity (as in Scream, still his best script) and not too much clumsy fake emotion (as in the icky Dawson's Creek). Like the Scream films, Teaching Mrs Tingle is designed as a game of bluff and double-bluff involving both the characters and the audience. Are there real ethical issues at stake, or is the whole thing a jokey, weightless genre exercise? Does Mrs Tingle have a human, emotionally vulnerable core, or is she a ruthless horror-movie-type monster? Her three students are seemingly decent, well-meaning kids, but once they've overpowered Mrs Tingle, who really has the moral high ground? While Williamson deliberately keeps our options open, Mrs Tingle's put-downs are so snidely accurate you're forced to suspect the film is secretly on her side and Helen Mirren has a hundred times more presence than all three teenage stars put together. Maybe I'm prejudiced because I can't stand Katie Holmes, but there's something intriguingly sneaky about the way Williamson both endorses and mocks her blandly 'sympathetic' character, a sensitive straight-A student. 'Always the victim, aren't we?' sneers Mrs Tingle. 'So very, very touching.' But in the end, it's possible that this soggy goody-two-shoes might turn out to be the most ruthless bitch of all..."
Jake Wilson

"The 90's teen horror/thriller cycle almost singlehandedly created by Kevin Williamson isn't enhanced by his inauspicious directing debut which probably seemed like a good idea at the time but simply doesn't cut it as a feature-length film. Teaching Mrs Tingle is the script Williamson wrote long before Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2 made his name synonymous with teenagers in peril. He should have resisted the temptation to raid his own back catalogue because this flimsy piece of writing has only the barest of sparks characterising his later work. Essentially a one-joke affair about a bunch of kids who torment the teacher from hell, it fails to sustain interest once the tables have been turned and even the double-whammy finale is a let-down. Helen Mirren, although she's way too classy for this juvenile caper, at least seems to enjoy playing the villain; Katie Holmes is convincing as the good girl who needs a little bad in her life and Marisa Coughlan supplies the film's best single moment with a spirited impression of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. It's a nice touch having 80's teen queen Molly Ringwald on hand as a school clerk and relief teacher whose interpretation of Napoleon and Josephine's relationship generates a titter or two. These are fleeting bright spots in an otherwise dismal effort which Williamson should have left in his bottom drawer."
Richard Kuipers

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CAST: Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Marisa Coughlan, Barry Watson

DIRECTOR: Kevin Williamson

PRODUCER: Cathy Konrad

SCRIPT: Kevin Williamson


EDITOR: Debra Neil-Fisher

MUSIC: John Frizzell


RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 21, 1999

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