A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a person who seems dead suddenly grabs another person. There's suspense when Leigh Ann discovers Mrs. Tingle has escaped. Frequent profanity, ranging from mild to extreme.The teen characters abduct a teacher and tie her to a bed, copy a final exam with the intent to cheat, blackmail, lie, and change grades in a grade book. A character drinks to the point of passing out. References to spanking and a "three-some." Mrs. Tingle has an ongoing affair with the married Coach Wenchell. We see foreplay between Leigh Ann and Luke, then see them naked but covered after sex. The captors take "dirty" blackmail pictures of Mrs. Tingle and the coach. A substitute teacher describes history in sexually explicit terms. Numerous near-lethal fires of a crossbow. Teens gag and bind Mrs. Tingle to a bed and talk of "finishing her off." Mrs. Tingle tries to strangle Jo Lynn. She also chases Leigh Ann and throws her into a wall.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In this dark comedy, dedicated high school student Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes) becomes increasingly frustrated that, after all her hard work and excellent grades, she isn't going to be chosen as class valedictorian. Leigh Ann is pushed over the edge when her mean teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren), trashes her final class project and accuses her of cheating. Leigh Ann gathers her friends Jo Lynn (Marisa Coughlan) and Luke (Barry Watson), and they head over to Mrs. Tingle's house in an attempt to persuade her not to turn Lee Ann in to school officials. But the plan takes a dark turn when the teens kidnap their teacher.
Is it any good?
You can't help but wonder why the acclaimed British thespian Helen Mirren would agree to be a part of this misguided teen thriller. She seems to enjoy portraying a Disney-like villainess, playing mind games with her inept captors. Yet, her efforts are mostly wasted, as the movie has too many implausible events and unanswered questions--apparently Mrs. Tingle never has to go to the bathroom, and why wouldn't she go to the police when she escaped?
Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes and Seventh Heaven's heartthrob Barry Watson give decent performances. Molly Ringwald, former star of John Hughes high school flicks, gives a noteworthy performance as the school secretary/substitute teacher with a peculiar historical perspective.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this is a realistic portrayal of high school students and teachers, as well as the real pressures felt by kids to get good grades and get accepted into college. Would a teacher as evil as Mrs. Tingle, who routinely insults students and faculty alike, remain in the classroom? What real-life situations do you think the movie is exaggerating? What message, if any, is it trying to give viewers?
- In theaters: April 10, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 10, 2002
- Cast: Helen Mirren, Jeffrey Tambor, Katie Holmes
- Director: Kevin Williamson
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic content, violence, sexuality, language and some teen drinking
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