Within the first 30 seconds of Miss Meadows, we’re shown a CGI squirrel. Unless I’m watching Over the Hedge (Tim Johnson, 2006), I don’t expect to see CGI animals; there are plenty of real ones about. Anyway, this all but sets the tone for a lacklustre movie which is never quite joyful or tonally assured enough.
Miss Meadows kills bad people and teaches children. It sounds like a good premise. The substitute teacher is quirky, cheerful, and always has a witty rejoinder close at hand. In its few inspired moments, Katie Holmes (who I thought was Kate Beckinsale) delivers the film’s dialogue remarkably well, and Miss Meadows is almost funny. Trouble is, this film never seems to want to embrace its satirical nature, and this similar theme has been done much better in past films such as Serial Mom (John Waters, 1994). Miss Meadows just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.
In its early moments, Miss Meadows is a bit satirical and cautionary. The old biddy next door is worried about criminals in the neighbourhood, but strong-willed Miss Meadows isn’t because she carries a derringer. Having stopped her for being parked in the middle of a road the town cop runs Miss Meadows’ plates and turns up at the school where she’s working (totally not stalkerish). This cop, a mamma’s boy who became a policeman out of fear, begins dating Miss Meadows and the film becomes a jerky comedy, at least for a time.
After declaring that his dream job would be as a professional accordion player because he feels it has an obscure and misunderstood beauty (erm…) this police worm appears to have endeared Miss Meadows. As their picnic draws to a close Miss Meadows begins tap dancing, then so does he. Music begins to play and there’s a sort of charming awfulness about the whole scene.
When the plot finally decides to get going (much of Miss Meadows is a plodding chore to watch with scenes almost unbearably long) it remains carefully undramatic, like it’s intending to be this slavish and monotonous. The main plot involves the endangerment of a young child from a scary man with a cute dog. This might have been quite potent, but this film fails to conceive of such scenes in the right way.
Miss Meadows sets itself up for greatness many times, but despite how hard Katie Holmes is trying with her occasionally delirious performance, it never once succeeds. I’d been hoping for a film with adorable classroom interludes and gory violence by night. To get this effect I don’t recommend Miss Meadows – instead I’d suggest watching Kindergarten Cop (1990, Ivan Reitman) followed by a few episodes of Dexter.