Jarv’s Birthday Series: Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999)

Well, that’s the fun over for me now. The 90’s have been (for the most part) a pleasant and enjoyable trawl through films that I needed reminding about. However, given the stinker at the start of them, I can’t say it’s that much of a shock that I’m finishing the decade on an absolute loaf. I’m now feeling a fair amount of hatred towards Kevin Williamson, I loved the first Scream, and the faculty had its moments, but this, his sole directorial credit (he also wrote it) is an abomination that combines smugness with boredom and post modernism to create a truly hateful cocktail of insipid garbage.  It’s faintly ironic that I’m writing a review of this film when London is in the grip of feral youths given the subject matter here (3 douchebags kidnap teacher), so I suppose I’d just better struggle on ahead.

Teaching Mrs. Tingle (release date 20th August 1999) is about wannabe valedictorian Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes). Katie doesn’t get on with her history teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), who seems to hate all pupils. Through a contrived and aggravating plot development, her and her friends, wannabe actress Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlin) and douchebag Luke (Barry Watson) are accused of cheating. Instead of, say, arguing her case, through a series of laughable happenings they manage to contrive to kidnap the devilish Mrs. Tingle. How are our brave heroes going to get out of this one? Through sheer luck, actually, but not until a load of embarrassing shenanigans have taken place. Incidentally, despite everything else, they get away with it and Mrs. Tingle gets fired.

This film is garbage. Full fat, high-octane, garbage. It’s concentrated garbage, and the problems with it come from the lousy script (supplied by one Kevin Williamson). Firstly, the plot is contrived and uninteresting. The film hinges on a series of unlikely events, and ignores reality- would Leigh Ann really need to be Valedictorian to be able to get a scholarship? And why the fuck does the obviously English Helen Mirren keep saying that she’s never left the town? Secondly, the characters constantly behave out of character to further the needs of the stupid story. Would Jo Lynn really believe Mrs. Tingle about the other two? Talking about which, would Leigh Ann drop everything that defines her character to hop in the sack for some grubby sex with a character she thinks is a moron? Especially considering she’s a virgin? Having done this, would she really be OK with it the next morning? Useless.

The acting here is terrible. Leaving aside Mirren, who blows every other actor off the screen (in fact she might be too good, because it’s embarrassing watching the rest of them in comparison), it’s dire. Holmes has never been able to act, and her female balsa tree impersonation is coming on well here, Watson is also dimmer than a broken lightbulb but the cardinal sinner is Coughlin. Her one woman Exorcist is, I think, meant to be funny, but honestly, it makes me want to organise a fight between Linda Blair and her, but only when she’s tied to a chair. She’s absolutely terrible, and we see her try to act ( this is some shitty postmodernist nonsense here, Kevin) on multiple occasions and the audience sadly come to agree with Mrs. Tingle that Jo Lynn has a long career ahead of her in the service industry. Unless she gives a dynamite blow job, then she may be able to aspire to be trophy wife.

What’s annoying, is that there is actually a pretty solid supporting cast. Vivicia A. Fox pitches up pointlessly as a teacher, as does Molly Ringwald, while Michael McKean plays the Principal and Jeffrey Tambor debases himself as the coach. All of these actors are solid here, and all of them are totally wasted. Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter, because this film is about Mirren versus the kids. Mirren, actually, is good here, and TMT is going to duck a very low rating based on her performance. She snarls with venom, and the opening scene with her taking class is easily the most amusing bit of the film. Pity that up against her, the kids look even worse.

I’m running out of points to make here, because Teaching Mrs. Tingle just isn’t good. I can’t place the most annoying and inept moment in the film, or the most agonising piece of writing or shoddy performance. However, if I had to pick a scene that encapsulated everything wrong with this film, then I’d pick the one where the less than intrepid trio of arch criminals get the coach drunk to take compromising pictures of him. I cannot for the life of me see one redeeming feature to this skin-crawling mix of shit writing, hackneyed gags and humiliating performances. Also, the insinuation that it’s OK to ruin his life to protect their own mistake is offensive beyond belief.

Which brings me round to the big problem with the film, and the reason that it’s so vile. This is a typical example of a disgusting attitude all to prevalent in film and other media. The central premise of the film, that the kids are justified in doing whatever they like to the teacher, regardless of the consequences to others, because she’s a bit of a bitch is one of the prime examples of that sense of entitlement that seems pervasive today. Fuck anyone else, provided that you are justified in your dismal little self-righteous existence, then it’s completely legitimate to behave like a total cunt for little reason. Interestingly, there’s even less justification here, as Leigh wasn’t going to be top student anyway, another girl was, and only manages it through kidnap and cheating. I don’t know if Williamson is trying satire here, but if he is, then it hasn’t worked. Not at all.

Overall, this is shit. Terrible, terrible shit. It’s a complete waste of time for the viewer and I would say for all involved but I think just for Mirren. I can’t honestly recommend a film as bad as this one, so we’re already on a rating below 2 which just leaves what level to put it on. So, in the interests of honesty, Teaching Mrs. Tingle is an atrocious sack of crap, but does have a good performance from Mirren in it, therefore it can have 1 slutty teacher out of 4. Garbage.

Oh, and for fuck’s sake, someone teach Williamson what Irony is. He has four attempts at it (complete with definition) in this film and gets it wrong every time here. This may explain a lot about his films.

Next up is *groan* Bring it On. So Nuh-huuuuh! Girlfriend! She Di’ent! (pukes on keyboard).

Until then,

Jarv.

The full list in this series:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

20 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999)”

  1. Xiphos0311 says :

    The central premise of the film, that the kids are justified in doing whatever they like to the teacher, regardless of the consequences to others, because she’s a bit of a bitch is one of the prime examples of that sense of entitlement that seems pervasive today. Fuck anyone else, provided that you are justified in your dismal little self-righteous existence, then it’s completely legitimate to behave like a total cunt for little reason.

    That might be some of your best writing Jarv and sadly so very true.

    I’ve never seen this, never wanted to see it and after reading this I won’t see it.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    you know its cold up in here, must be some Torros up in the atmosphere…

    • Jarv says :

      Groan.

      It’s such a sack of pointless crap. If I want to have a wank, then I’ll watch porn. I won’t stick on some shitty “comedy” about cheerleading that forgets to be amusing and is actually a bit dull.

      I felt really grubby watching it.

  3. Continentalop says :

    Good review for a bad movie, Jarv. I remember just wanting to punch every kid in this film. Yeah, Mirren is a bitch, but I could sympathize with her. All the young people in this film came off like spoiled, self-centered brats.

    • Jarv says :

      This is partially why it’s such a failure. All the kids in this come off badly- and unlikeably as well. Particularly the scene in history class, where the “big project” that the guy presents is a fucking rock. I know that standards in education are declining, but really, it’s no wonder she fails them.

  4. Droid says :

    This is a very, very, very, very shit movie. I wouldn’t even give it 1. Mirren was class, but not enough for 1. I’d go 1/2.

    Also, this was called ‘Killing Mrs. Tingle’ until the Colombine shootings. Which is a title that doesn’t really make any sense anyway because I don’t remember them actually intending to kill her. But my memory of this movie is very hazy.

    • Jarv says :

      They accidentally shoot her with a crossbow (which is really contrived as to how they’ve got it). She then accidentally shoots someone else. Nobody dies though.

      I gave it one because Mirren is really good- and I’ve got a LOT of 1/2 and 0 films following:

      2000 – Bring it On (1/2)
      2001 – Heartbreakers (0)
      2002 – Simone (1)
      2003 – My Boss’s Daughter (0)
      2004 – Exorcist: The beginning (0)
      2005 – The Cave (0)
      2006 – Invincible
      2007 – War
      2008 – Death Race (0)
      2009 – Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
      2010 – Piranha 3D
      2011 – Conan the Barbarian

      • Droid says :

        Bit harsh on a few movies, I’d say. Bring it on is a bit crap, but it’s not that bad. 1 1/2. Simone is a swing and a miss, but it’s a swing for the fences. I admire that it really went for something interesting. It just didn’t work as well as it should. I give it 2. Heartbreakers had JLH’s boobs spilling out of various tight outfits. For those two, and Liotta, I give it 1.

      • Jarv says :

        Heartbreakers also had Sigourney Weaver as sex symbol, hideous romantic subplot, Weaver’s terrible russian accent, Hackman’s coughing, the penis on the statue gag, the mommy’s boy gag, that Jason Lee was worth apparently millions and so forth.

        Awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, film.

        Bring it on is terrible gash as well- it’s actually a bit embarrassing to watch, and if I want to watch porn then I will do, so there’s no reason at all to sit through it.

        Sim0ne- is ambitious and brave, but ultimately not very good and kind of boring, the end is dire as well. If I upgrade any of these that’s the one it will be.

  5. just pillow talk says :

    I’ve seen some of this delightful movie. Alas, I have not seen its glorious beginning to end, but those kids were so adorable. I thought for sure that evil, evil teacher was going to hurt those wonderful, wonderful kids.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    Reading that review, I can actually hear the life force being sucked out of you (and not by Mathilda May, which would be agreeable I’m sure).

    I will avoid.

    Droid is correct; Katie really does have nice tits.

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