By Owen Gleiberman
September 03, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

The first film directed by screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson’s Creek) is a plastic exercise in authority bashing. Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), the high school history teacher, is a cartoon curmudgeon who speaks in poisoned bonbons of sarcasm. When Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes) is caught with two friends in a scandal that’s more innocent than it looks, the three go over to Mrs. Tingle’s house, and much over-blown malice follows. It’s depressing to see the gifted Williamson dance so crudely on the grave of empathy in Teaching Mrs. Tingle.

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