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Teaching Mrs. Tingle(1999)
Leanne 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.
For more about Teaching Mrs. Tingle and the Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray release, see Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Marisa Coughlan, Jeffrey Tambor, Liz Stauber, Michael McKean
Director: Kevin Williamson
» See full cast & crew
Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray Review
Terrible video and no supplements hurt the release of a fun little movie.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 22, 2013
That teacher of yours isn't going to know what hit her.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle, once titled Killing Mrs. Tingle (a title bearing a strong resemblance to the similarly themed Lois Duncan Teen fiction Thriller Killing Mr. Griffin) ran afoul of controversy when its release date was revised and its title altered following the Columbine school shooting back in the spring of 1999. Never mind that the film really has no resemblance to that -- or any -- school massacre, and neither is it particularly violent or even in any meaningful way action-oriented. It's more of a Suspense-Comedy with maybe jut a few drops more of blood in the whole movie than one might spill from a bad nose bleed, but just the mere fact that the film involves students in confrontation with faculty was enough to bring about the changes, rightly or wrongly (cases for other delayed/revised films set to be released in the wake of tragedy -- Colateral Damage and Gangster Squad being the two prime examples -- make much more contextual sense). Not to give anything away, but the new title actually fits the film a bit better than the other, anyway; in Duncan's book, the teacher dies early on; in Tingle, she's only knocked unconscious -- and accidentally at that -- and tied to her bed while the students decide how to best escape their dilemma. The controversy likely hindered box office performance; the result was a commercial failure of a film that didn't recapture its modest budget, a shame considering the film is a rather delightful little psychological warfare romp between an experienced and hardened teacher and her naive-to-life students.
Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes) desperately wants to graduate first in her class, not for pride but for scholarship money that could change her life forever. She's in competition with snotty rich girl Trudie Tucker (Liz Stauber), a teacher's pet, a brown-noser, just the sort to undermine her classmate or play dirty to get the coveted top spot. But Leigh Ann faces another challenge: Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), a notoriously unfriendly, overbearing, mean-spirited history teacher who speaks down to her students and favors Trudie over Leigh Ann. Leigh Ann, working on an extra credit project with her best friend Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) to compensate for what will certainly be a lower-than-earned grade in Tingle's class, is approached by dead-end classmate Luke Turner (Barry Watson) who possesses a stolen copy of Tingle's final exam. Leigh Ann rejects the offer to see it early, but Luke places it in her bag, anyway, and as fate would have it, Leigh Ann is caught red-handed by none other than Tingle herself. Fortunately, the principal isn't at school at the time of the infraction, leaving Tingle to wait until the following day to turn in the "thief." Leigh Ann, Luke, and Jo Lynn go to Tingle's home to lie, beg, or otherwise convince her to let the infraction pass. What begins as an innocent plea turns into a nightmare when Tingle is knocked unconscious and the trio of students have no choice but to tie her up until she relents on her stance and allows Leigh Ann to graduate with a fair grade and a clean record.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle's confines and scope are such that the material might have worked as a successful stage production. As a film, the limited action and set pieces leave it up to the cast and the script to find the dramatic muscle and thematic nuance necessary to make the movie work. All succeed. Perhaps the film is a victim of perception, that it should be clumped in with Writer/Director Kevin Williams' other, more popular works of teenage Horror (Scream, The Faculty, I Know What You Did Last Summer) when it's nothing of the sort, or perhaps the film still in some way reels from its title change and release date alteration. Whatever the case may be, it's a shame the film seems less-than-popular (5.1 IMDB rating), not held in very high regard. Yet it's really quite good at what it does, blending dark humor and deadly serious drama together into a light and mischievous Thriller that's more a battle of wits than it is a confrontation shaped by muscle, less -- and not at all, really -- scary movie and more a dramatic tale defined by conflicts of perception shaped by life experience and ambitions. The movie offers little in the way of aesthetic or artistic value -- visually, it's very straightforward -- but that's really all the film requires within its context. The movie hedges its bets on drama, characterization, and acting, all of which gel, the latter two of which are the real driving forces in the movie's success.
Indeed, the cast in Teaching Mrs. Tingle rarely falls short of the mark. If there's a weak link, it might very well be lead Katie Holmes who doesn't do much the with material, doesn't feel quite so engaged into the story as her fellow lead cast members. She maneuvers through the movie with a fairly stilted, droopy, disinterested sort of performance that rarely finds any real, deep, genuine emotions. Her character feels performed rather than authentic, but even as the film's focal point her midlevel work in no way really hinders the experience. The trio of Helen Mirren, Barry Watson, and Marisa Coughlan are so good at what they do in the film that they cover something of a hole at lead and define the movie through their collective works and on-screen interactions. The movie is at its best when Coughlan and Mirren verbally spar in Tingle's bedroom. The brinkmanship, the conniving, the convincing, the idle chatter all flows so well between them, and they find a deeper subtext behind the words as they battle one another in their own ways, as they open up and close off and pretend to be other than who they are in the search for the mental upper hand, all of it culminating in an excellent final scene in which tables are turned between them. Watson's smooth performance is nearly as good; he falls into character and finds plenty of chemistry with all three additional leads. Yet it's certainly Mirren's film; she dominates the picture and defines her character so well it's nearly uncanny. Her sense of worth and strength and belief that she has the upper hand even as she's tied up in bed is displayed through her verbal undressing of her captors, her ability to so slyly and so accurately dig into their teenage minds, see beyond the teenage surface, and figure out what it is that makes them who they are and, therefore, to find whatever weaknesses she might use to her advantage. It's a brilliant display of acting; she's mean-spirited yet oddly sultry and highly intelligent, a fantastic villain and brilliant for one that spends the majority of the film immobile.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray, Video Quality
Teaching Mrs. Tingle features a truly disappointing high definition (in name only, largely) transfer. At its best, it's soft and dull with a bit more in the way of clarity on larger screens over the DVD. But for the most part, the image serves up bland colors and details with practically no definition that would identify it as anything above standard. It takes on a very artificial, processed appearance, almost like blown-up video rather than film. The image is hindered by regular wear and occasional banding. Black levels can be fair, a bit noisy in places and a touch purple in others. Then there are the times when blacks just fall part; the love scene in chapter eight is the worst offender. Flesh tones do remain fairly natural, but otherwise this one's nearly indefensible. It's a truly awful Blu-ray viewing experience. The transfer is pasty, lifeless, terribly flat, and not at all even what audiences should accept for a bargain basement disc. It's a major disappointment in every way.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Though its video transfer is a mess, Teaching Mrs. Tingle's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is anything but. This is an active, aggressive, and loud track, one that enjoys good stage presence and balance throughout. Music plays with much energy and excellent spacing all around; in comparison to the video transfer it's a real treat. There's some nice ambience in school hallways; listeners will feel immersed in the busy school environment where chatty kids, slamming lockers, echoing footfalls, and other sound effects pull the listening audience into the environment. There's some fine dialogue reverberation in the gym when Luke approaches Leigh Ann with the final exam; the sense of space and emptiness in that location is quite good. Otherwise, this one is largely dialogue-driven. The spoken word comes through clearly and cleanly from the front-middle. This is a very pleasing soundtrack and really the only reason to upgrade from DVD.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, this Blu-ray release of Teaching Mrs. Tingle contains no supplements.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Teaching Mrs. Tingle is really quite good, an overlooked and under appreciated picture that meshes a playful underbelly with serious drama, both shaped by fantastic performances from Helen Mirren, Marisa Coughlan, and Barry Watson. The movie is engaging, thoughtful, wittily scripted, and darkly humorous. It might be Kevin Williamson's best-scripted film; it certainly lacks the directorial and visual polish of his other hits helmed by others, but it's a great little movie that shouldn't be overlooked. It's too bad Echo Bridge's Blu-ray isn't up to the task of presenting the film in a proper high definition release. The video transfer is awful, to be blunt, and with no included supplements even the solid lossless soundtrack cannot save the disc. Fans who don't already own the DVD might want to pick this up given the rock-bottom price, but otherwise hang onto that standard definition disc; this one is no better, visually.
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