Teaching Mrs. Tingle
** BM
Starring: Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Marisa Coughlan, Barry Watson

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Whee. Another Kevin Williamson film.

Don't most screenwriters occasionally try to branch out into some slightly different genres? How many wacky teenage mix-up murder suspense kinda things do we need?

In this trip on the WB-teen fame machine, Dawson's Crack (Katie Holmes) is a poor, striving student, 7th Heaven (Barry Watson) is a loser that wants her and her best friend is Jo (Marisa Coughlan - soon to star in "Wasteland" - a "Friends" thing - with Rebecca Gayheart, no less), who wants 7th Heaven, like, real bad.

There's also a really mean teacher named Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren) who seems to have it out for all kids everywhere for no real reason that's ever really made clear - a nifty way to make mortal combat and holding her hostage seem like a cool thing for Dawson's Crack and 7th Heaven to do. 7th steals Tingle's exam notes, Tingle finds 'em and blames Dawson's Crack for it, so the trio goes to Tingle's house that night to convice her to relent, but she's very mean, so she won't. So they end up accidentally maiming her with a crossbow, tying her to a bed while trying to figure out how to avoid being prosecuted when they let her go. Throw in a dull love triangle and here ya go.

Mirren is actually effective here, being completely without any sense of remorse or compassion for anything, and she's generally pretty disturbing in her devotion to nastiness. I want to support Katie Holmes, since she's from my hometown, and she does do a decent job here... but she looks like she's twelve, so it's a bit... odd to see her launch into a sexual frenzy at one point. Coughlan is also not too bad... it's just that the concept grew tiresome after a while, and my own cynicism started to seep in.

What IS commendable about this film, however, is an attempt to teach the teens that will be flocking to this film what the definition of IRONY is - a state of affairs that is the reverse of what was expected; a result opposite to and in mockery of the appropriate result. Here's an example provided by George Carlin, genius at large, in his book "Brain Droppings" (a must read) - "Darryl Stingley, the pro football player, was paralyzed after a brutal hit by Jack Tatum. Now Darryl Stingley's son plays football, and if the son should become paralyzed while playing, it will not be ironic. It will be coincidental. If Darryl Stingley's son paralyzes someone else, that will be closer to ironic. If he paralyzes Jack Tatum's son, that will be precisely ironic."

I'm still not entirely certain that Williamson grasps this (or if I do, for that matter), but I applaud the attempt to keep kids from thinking it's ironic when they get two cartons of milk in the school cafeteria that happen to have the same message from SafetyPup about how drinking out of the toilet is unhealthy.

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