TEACHING MRS. TINGLE

PG-13
Reviews

Kevin Williamson has quickly become one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood. In just a few short years, he has singlehandedly breathed life back into the teen comedy, brought respectability back to the horror genre, and created one of the most popular shows on television. What is there left for him to do?

Well, what seemingly everyone in Hollywood truly desires at some point-to direct. Williamson makes his directorial debut with Teaching Mrs.Tingle, a black comedy about three high-school students who get caught up in a web of blackmail and revenge against their wicked history teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren).

There is an inherent problem with making a 'black' comedy, and that is knowing just how far something will bend before it breaks. Pushing too far is no longer funny and neither is being too careful. While watching Mrs. Tingle, you are left hoping that it will go a bit further and not pull its punches quite so often. The result is an often funny, very harmless film. However, taking into consideration the obvious talent of Williamson and the subject matter, you would hope for something perhaps a bit darker or edgier.

The fabulous Helen Mirren (incidentally one of the finest actresses working today) does a fine turn as the evil history teacher and Williamson shows some definite skills for a rookie director. His success is testament to the fact that he obviously possesses that all-important feel for what an audience wants. While he could have taken off the gloves and gone for the jugular a bit more, Teaching Mrs. Tingle remains an entertaining film full of Williamson's familiar movie-reference-laced dialogue.

With the recent rash of school shootings such as Columbine, the subject of violence in schools has become a hot potato, so much so that the film's title was changed from Killing Mrs. Tingle to the more easy-to-digest Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Combine that with the need to get that coveted PG-13 and reach the target audience and it all begins to make sense. The film is as much a reflection of the current climate as it is a dark comedy about high school.

--Thom Bennett