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Spellbound (Bilingual)

Angela Arenivar , Ubaldo Arenivar , Jeffrey Blitz    DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 60.09
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4.0 out of 5 stars Two Thumbs Up from This Spelling Geek July 9 2004
My husband and I are veterans (and champions!) of adult-level spelling bees, so I felt really close to this movie. In fact, the movie had only been on for 11 minutes and I'd already started crying tears of joy when Angela won her regional bee, securing her place at the national Scripps-Howard bee in Washington, DC.
The kids profiled in this movie are fantastic. I found myself rooting for all of them, even the one or two who I didn't really like. I wanted to take little Harry home with me -- his facial expressions and his extended rambling about whether or not he could be considered "talkative" are just hysterical.
The parents are interesting as well. All of them are supportive of their children and have different ways of showing it. Neil's parents (especially his father) are a little intense, and it's easy to see them in a negative light, but when Neil is knocked out of the national competition, their reaction is to be supportive of their son. Nothing wrong with that. April's mother is nutsy, with huge red-framed eyeglasses. She's constantly giggling, "Beeeeee Happy! B-E-E!" April comments that her mother reminds her of Edith Bunker, "because she's kinda dumb."
The competiton is nail-bitingly suspenseful. I found myself whispering the spellings of the words as the kids struggled, hoping they would somehow hear me. A couple of the kids have heartbreaking moments where you can see the anguish on their faces as they struggle to make sense of a word. One girl nearly starts crying; it was all I could do not to cry too!
My one criticism of the movie lies in how they handled the winner of the national bee. First they tell you who won, and only a few minutes later do they show you the winner spelling the winning word.
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In the past, I've occasionally stumbled upon ESPN's live coverage of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee contest conducted in Washington, DC. I never paid much attention because the event never seemed to be all that exciting. However, this 2002 documentary of the 1999 National Spelling Bee is anything but boring.
In the beginning, the viewer is given brief but informative backgrounds on each of the film's eight subjects. The one thing that begins to come across almost immediately is how much these kids care about competing and succeeding and the fact that the parents of each care almost as much (or perhaps even more in some cases) as the kids themselves. Most of the parents spend their free time helping the kids practice spelling words.
We're told early on that nine million kids participate in spelling bees every year and that only 249 will make it to Washington, DC. The fact that these 8 (and the other 241 who are not a focus of the film) have already won numerous local and regional spelling bees within their own states is an accomplishment itself. That one will end up being the best speller out of nine million (and beat the best of the best), is simply amazing.
As the film focuses more and more on the national competition, I found myself becoming nervous right along with the kids and parents, hoping that I wouldn't hear that little bell at the end of a misspelled word which tells the participant that they may now exit stage right as it is all over with. I wanted all eight to win but the one I found myself rooting for the most was Neil Kadakia, a 12 year old Indian boy from San Clemente, California. His dedication, as well as that of his parents (particularly his father, who makes some encouraging and appreciative comments about the USA) was incredible.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 8 Stories July 6 2004
See eight kids with eight levels of genius and eight different types of parents. As interesting as the children are in this, what seems to jump out the most are the people who brought them into the world and the way they continue to shape them into what they are, positively or negatively. Ranging from tyrannical to completely disengaged, from the finest New England neighborhoods to the ghetto in D.C., you'll be amazed that all of these parents have raised kids capable of performing at this level.
As for the kids, while all bookish, they range from the sullen & withdrawn that you would imagine to outgoing and silly. You do get the idea that, for all the variations, being this good at anything implies a similarity: you are really, really good at things that the vast majority of people aren't...making you an immediate outsider among your peers who would rather discuss J Lo's latest marriage than the language origin of words.
They all have a story so genuine, you'll be sorry that anyone has to lose. An actual, true documentary, by the way, in a time that political op-ed pieces are falsely handed awards in this category.
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3.0 out of 5 stars They completely ruined the ending! June 12 2004
This film builds to a nail-biting conclusion, to be certain. But the film makers ruined the ending to their own film! They show the contestants being weeded out, one by one, each spelling a word and eventually failing. Finally it comes down to two remaining spellers. The first one fails his word, leaving the door wide open for Nupur to win, IF she spells her word correctly. Just as we are on the edge of our seats, expecting to hear Nupur's word, instead the film makers whisk the viewer off to some video montage of sound bites of the contestants being interviewed in their homes and such. I think, "Oh great, they're making this into a real cliffhanger, and we'll get to see if she spells her word correctly or not after they have built the suspense!" But the very last montage clip is of a television screen where we see Nupur being interviewed on a newscast, and at the bottom of the screen is a ticker which says, "National Spelling Bee Champion." Excuuuuuse me? Thanks for ruining the climax! It was not a given that she was the winner after the first speller failed! She could have failed her word too. A few seconds later they show us Nupur spelling her word correctly, but by this time it is a complete anticlimax. This completely ruined the whole ending for me. They should have gone straight from a suspense-building montage to Nupur spelling her word correctly and her ensuing euphoria so we could share in it. As presented, I felt I was left behind and could not connect with her moment.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good doc.
Spellbound tell the story of 8 of 249 kids at the National Spelling Bee. It's an interesting documentary, even though it's a little slow during the D.C. spell-off. Read more
Published on July 16 2004 by chicoer2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Driven
I rented this one thinking it was the Hitchcock film with Gregory Peck. I was surprised and not delighted that this 2002 Spellbound was actually a documentary about school kids and... Read more
Published on June 28 2004 by R. A Rubin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great MOVIE!
Don't be fooled by the title or subject matter--thinking that it will be dry and boring. This is a wonderful docudrama based on the National Spelling Bee, and the drama behind the... Read more
Published on June 22 2004 by Krupali Tejura
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Buy It Already!
This is not a niche film for academic geeks (although they like it), but an intense documentary for all who wish to look outside the box of what is considered "normal. Read more
Published on June 2 2004 by P. Hartung
4.0 out of 5 stars Appealing documentary about kids competing
Spellbound is an engaging documentary about eight kids who are hopefuls in the national spelling bee, 1999. Read more
Published on May 12 2004 by A. Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Intelligent
This movie is fun and intelligent, as my description says. It has lots of hidden "simpsons like" humor, and it makes you think a little :-). Read more
Published on May 12 2004 by "denverused"
4.0 out of 5 stars H-I-G-H-larious
This is the most unintentionally funny, stereotype proving movie I've ever seen. From the plantation owners talking about how "not all the Mexicans is lazy- there's some good... Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by Sarah Stephens
4.0 out of 5 stars "don't be distracted by the glitz and glamor of the bee"
In keeping with what other reviewers echoed, Spellbound really is a suspenseful and fascinating documentary following the progress of eight youngsters who have won regional... Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by EriKa
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, because it's about more than spelling.
The spelling aspect of _Spellbound_ is interesting. The kids learn words that even most highly educated people will never have any reason to know, and at any rate their skill is... Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by Jacob H. Huebert
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