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Movie Review - Teaching Mrs. Tingle - Starring Helen Mirren (1999)

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Background

This film, aimed at teenagers, was originally titled “Killing Mrs. Tingle.”  When a series of high school killings, including Columbine, occurred, its creators decided that a name change was in order.

With such an A-list cast, it would seem that the film would be a great success.  However, exploiting the student vs. teacher relationship, giving the benefit to the student, does not pass muster with parents or school officials.  Too bad, because this film could have been a blockbuster with some minor changes.  It has actually garnered some followers who have turned it into a cult classic.

                                                               

Helen Mirren

                                                                Helen Mirren - Wikimedia

Helen Mirren (Mrs. Tingle), known for her serious and award-winning roles, agreed to play the title character, wanting to get out of her comfort level, it is supposed.  She played her part well, and was a choice addition to the cast.

A young Katie Holmes did not look like herself.  Perhaps, a small plastic surgery job might have been accomplished later in her short life.  Her acting, however, was spot on.  Molly Ringwald  does a reputable job as the school office assistant and substitute teacher, Miss Banks.

Introduction

 The viewer is introduced to Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes), the daughter of a single mother (Lesley Ann Warren) who struggles as a waitress to provide for her very brilliant child.  Leigh Ann hopes to be the valedictorian of her senior class this year, since Harvard is more apt to accept a valedictorian than a salutatorian.  Her one rival for the honor is Trudie Tucker (Liz Stauber) who seems to have the upper hand at the moment, since Leigh Ann trails Trudie by one or two points in their history class.  The difficulty stems from the fact that their history teacher, Mrs. Tingle, does not like Leigh Ann.  Their semester project will determine who forges ahead.  Trudie has built an ancient castle which involved intricate work and displays well.  Leigh Ann’s massive research paper on some medieval characters did not fare as well.

                                                       

Katie Holmes

                                                            Katie Holmes - Wikimedia

Mrs. Tingle’s History Exam

Leigh Ann’s best friend in her class is Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan), a poor student but an aspiring actress who has a long-held crush on one of their classmates, Luke Churner (Barry Watson) who once sought after Leigh Ann without success.  While working in the gym on a class project, Leigh Ann and Jo Lynn were approached by Luke, who showed them a copy of Mrs. Tingle’s final history exam.  The girls both refused to look at it, not wanting to cheat in their final year.  Before Luke left, he stuffed the exam in Leigh Ann’s backpack and walked off.

Mrs. Tingle Retrieves Her History Exam

Mrs. Tingle came upon the girls in the gym, and while engaging them in conversation, she noticed her exam protruding out of Leigh Ann’s backpack.  This was the beginning of their downfall.  Mrs. Tingle tried to contact the principal, Mr. Potter (Michel McKean), to inform them of the infraction, but Mr. Potter had left for the day.  Mrs. Tingle had several confrontations with Mr. Potter about his drinking habits.  Mr. Potter claimed to have stopped drinking four years ago, but Mrs. Tingle knew better and chastised him on several occasions.  She planned to speak with him the very next morning.

                                                            

Molly Ringwald

                                                            Molly Ringwald - Wikimedia

A Visit to Mrs. Tingle’s House

Leigh Ann’s closest friend, Jo Lynn, did not want Leigh Ann to take the blame for something she did not do, and went to Mrs. Tingle’s house that evening to tell her as much.  Mrs. Tingle greeted her ungraciously and she left.  Leigh Ann then decided to go to Mrs. Tingle’s house to plead her own case.  She was also scolded by her teacher. 

The girls met with their friend Luke and decided that something had to be done.  They all visited Mrs. Tingle’s house, and chaos broke out.  During the melee, Mrs. Tingle was knocked unconscious and the three managed to bring her to her upstairs bedroom where they tied her to the bed so she would not escape when she revived consciousness.  They had to gag her to counteract her verbal abuse which was her hallmark.

Mrs. Tingle is Held Hostage

Leigh Ann left to go home, Jo Lynn called her mother to say she was staying at Leigh Ann’s for the night, and Luke’s dysfunctional family situation allowed him to come and go as he pleased.  He and Jo Lynn stayed at Mrs. Tingle’s that night.  The next morning, Jo Lynn called the school, and her acting ability came in handy as she imitated Mrs. Tingle’s voice to tell the front office that she would not be in today because of a bout with the flu.

When Leigh Ann and Luke left for school, Jo Lynn removed Mrs. Tingle’s gag in order to feed her.  Mrs. Tingle took advantage of the situation by indicating to Jo Lynn that Leigh Ann liked Luke and was intent on winning him over.  Jo Lynn was unhappy to hear that.

                                   

Teacher's Grade Book

                                                   Teacher's Grade Book - Wikimedia

Coach Wenchell Shows Up

After school that day, the trio were surprised when their gym teacher, Coach Wenchell, showed up at Mrs. Tingle’s house on his bike.  Again, Jo Lynn put her acting ability to good use by sneaking up behind him, and after imitating Mrs. Tingle’s voice, she put a blindfold over his eyes.  They learned that Mrs. Tingle referred to him as “Spanky” and undoubtedly had a close relationship which their students never knew.  Jo Lynn plied him with alcohol to the point where he passed out, after making several remarks which confirmed their past trysts.  Luke found Mrs. Tingle’s grade book and Leigh was encouraged to change her grade as well as Trudie Tucker’s.

Luke and Leigh Ann managed to bring the passed-out Coach Wenchell and his bike to his house and deposited him on his front porch.  Mrs. Tingle managed to free herself from her bonds and tied Luke to the bed instead.  More chaos ensued when Leigh Ann’s rival, Trudie Tucker arrived at the house, followed by the principal, Mr. Potter, as well as the police.

A Caveat

The entire episode was a no-win situation (not only for the characters, but for the cast themselves).  Parents should be warned that such a film might give their children ideas, or at least infer that teachers are idiots and should not be revered.  I would not be happy to have my own grandchildren watch this film.

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Teaching Mrs. Tingle
Amazon Price: $37.40 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 18, 2016)
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Bibliography

  1. "Teaching Mrs. Tingle." Rotten Tomatoes. 18/04/2016. 18/04/2016 <Web >

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