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Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray Review

Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999) movie poster Teaching Mrs. Tingle

Theatrical Release: August 20, 1999 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Kevin Williamson

Cast: Helen Mirren (Mrs. Eve Tingle), Katie Holmes (Leigh Ann Watson), Jeffrey Tambor (Coach Wenchell), Barry Watson (Luke Churner), Marisa Coughlan (Jo Lynn Jordan), Liz Stauber (Trudie Tucker), Michael McKean (Principal Potter), Molly Ringwald (Miss Banks), Vivica A. Fox (Miss Gold), John Patrick White (Brian Berry), Lesley Ann Warren (Faye Watson - uncredited)

Buy Teaching Mrs. Tingle from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video / Buy the Blu-ray now at BestBuy.com

In the late 1990s, it seemed like Kevin Williamson could do no wrong. Williamson wrote the irony-heavy slasher Scream (1996), which breathed new life into the horror genre. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), which Williamson adapted from a Lois Duncan novel, became another hit, a month before Scream 2 did too.
The next year, the Williamson-created drama "Dawson's Creek" began a long run on the WB and The Faculty performed adequately in theaters.

Then, things quickly went south for Williamson with Teaching Mrs. Tingle, the 1999 black comedy thriller on which he made his directorial debut. Originally to be called Killing Mrs. Tingle, it was retitled in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre of the same year, although the studio denied any connection. Opening in late August, where movies generally go to die, the film struck out with critics and bombed at the box office, grossing under $9 million on a $13 M budget.

In a filmography anomaly, Academy Award winner Helen Mirren takes top billing and the titular role. Eve Tingle is a mean, discouraging history teacher at Grandsboro High School long disliked by all of her colleagues and students. Most focal among the latter is Leigh Ann Watson (Katie Holmes), a smart senior in need of a college scholarship. She'll apparently get one if she can become the Class of '99's valedictorian, but she is currently second in the running by a few percentage points. The relentless Tingle will seemingly decide whether Leigh Ann continues her education or wind up living the tiring life of a waitress like her divorced mother (an uncredited Lesley Ann Warren).

Just days away from graduating high school, seniors Luke (Barry Watson), Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes), and Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) are caught with a copy of Mrs. Tingle's history final exam.

Leigh Ann inadvertently stumbles into a predicament when Mrs. Tingle catches her and two classmates, unambitious slacker Luke Churner (Barry Watson, "7th Heaven") and aspiring actress Jo Lynn Jordan (Marisa Coughlan), with an advance copy of a final exam. Before Mrs. Tingle can take punitive action, the three students pay her a house visit, pleading their case to no avail. That evolves into a kidnapping scenario, when a crossbow's arrow accidentally grazes the cold professor and leaves her unconscious. The students tie her to her bed's headboard, call her in sick, and try to get themselves out of this mess by staging a scandal with which they can blackmail her.

Teaching Mrs. Tingle has the look and feel of a WB drama crossed with a television movie. With the exception of Mirren, who gives a typically high quality performance with a passable American accent, the acting is pretty poor. The injustice of the profession is plain to see in the fact that the relatively compelling Coughlan hasn't been in a movie you've seen or heard of since 2001 (and that was Freddy Got Fingered), while the flat, one-note Holmes got to be in Batman Begins.

Williamson's forte, writing, is not without issue either, as Mrs. Tingle puts up a fight, trying and too easily succeeding at using the students' weaknesses to turn them against one another. Though this isn't a horror film, it clearly comes from the same place as Scream and its ilk, only without the cleverness and rampant referentiality (the best we get here is a pretty random and weird homage to The Exorcist). The scenes set at the high school now feel like a heavy-handed period piece, as they prominently showcase dated fashions and music.

Bound to the bed but not gagged at the moment, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren) uses her guile to try to turn her captors against one another.

What strikes me most about this movie, which I had long wanted to see but hadn't until now, is that Williamson alone is credited as writer, even though its concept bears a strong resemblance to Killing Mr. Griffin, a novel Duncan wrote five years after the source of I Know What You Did.... Obviously, there are differences, beginning with the fact that Mr. Griffin is a man,
but not nearly enough to dismiss plagiarism accusations against someone who had drawn one of his bigger hits from the same well. Perhaps the flopping discouraged legal action. Or perhaps Duncan was still grateful that Williamson had out of the blue elevated the profile of her 25-year-old young adult suspense novel.

It's not as if Mr. Griffin was some obscure book; it had been tapped for NBC movie treatment in 1997 (airing six months before I Know opened) with a cast that included TV veterans Scott Bairstow, Amy Jo Johnson, Mario Lopez, Jay Thomas, and a not yet famous Michelle Williams. It's a real stretch to assume that Williamson was not inspired by Duncan's work in any way, but Wikipedia's entries on both this movie and Duncan's book make clear that I'm far from the only one to have noticed the similarities.

Based on Tingle's poor reputation, it isn't surprising that it wound up along with The Faculty in the lesser half of the Miramax library whose rights were acquired by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, rather than the more profitable fare (like the first three Scream movies) that went to Lionsgate. Tingle was among a bunch of Miramax and Dimension films that made their Blu-ray debuts from Echo Bridge in late January as low-priced Best Buy exclusives. It hits general retail on May 7th.

Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 7, 2013 (Best Buy Exclusive: January 27, 2013)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($6.99 SRP; May 3, 2011) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released by Buena Vista on DVD (December 21, 1999)
and VHS (July 11, 2000)

VIDEO and AUDIO

If the film doesn't disappoint you, its Blu-ray presentation likely will. Teaching Mrs. Tingle looks much older than a 14-year-old film in this underwhelming 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Colors are faded. The print has far more wear and flaws than you would expect.
Interlacing runs rampant. In sharpness and vibrancy, this resembles standard definition and not even a good DVD at that. Presumably, this still bests Disney's original 1999 DVD, which was not enhanced for 16:9 screens, but it must do so by a slimmer margin than it should.

Offered in 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD master audio, the soundtrack is none too impressive either. Rear channels offer at most some very slight reinforcement and there is nothing in the way of directional effects. On the plus side, the dialogue remains sufficiently crisp and largely intelligible. Unfortunately, no subtitles are provided. You don't have to be hearing impaired to wish that Echo Bridge could figure out how to make use of the subtitles from Disney DVD's that shouldn't be beyond converting.

The Teaching Mrs. Tingle Blu-ray menu plays clips amidst the three members (Barry Watson, Katie Holmes, Marisa Coughlan) of Grandsboro High School's Class of 1999.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Teaching Mrs. Tingle is joined by no bonus features, not even the theatrical trailer apparently included on Disney's original 1999 DVD. Bummer.

The animated menu plays clips in a space created by repositioning the cover art images, while an excerpt of closing song Stretch Princess' "Sorry' is looped. The disc gladly resumes unfinished playback of the film, but does not support bookmarks.

No inserts or other distinguishing features jazz up the plain blue keepcase, but the disc is at least treated to a full-color label.

Luke Churner (Barry Watson) aims the crossbow. Jo Lynn Jordan (Marisa Coughlan) wields incriminating photos.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you know Teaching Mrs. Tingle at all, it is probably due to its somewhat notorious reputation as a dud. Subpar though it may be, the film is the best thing this basic Blu-ray has going for it. With severely lacking picture quality, underwhelming sound, and no bonus features at all, it's tough to recommend this vanilla disc to fans of the movie even at its currently low sales price of $4.99.

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Related Reviews:
Written by Kevin Williamson: The Faculty | New: Hollow Man & Hollow Man II Senseless
Late '90s High Schoolers: 10 Things I Hate About You Varsity Blues Clueless Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: Season 3 Popular: Season 2
Katie Holmes: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Jack and Jill | Barry Watson: Samantha Who?: The Complete First Season
Helen Mirren: The Queen The Last Station Arthur (2011) Inkheart National Treasure: Book of Secrets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Lesley Ann Warren: Clue The Happiest Millionaire | Jeffrey Tambor: Heavyweights Win Win Operation: Endgame | Vivica A. Fox: Ella Enchanted

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Reviewed April 4, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1999 Dimension Films, Konrad Pictures, Interscope Communications, 2013 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Miramax.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.