Jeff Blitz presents eight champion spellers in Spellbound, his first feature film. The audience is introduced to each of the eight at different phases of their preparation for the 1999 National Spelling Competition, some before they have even won the regional competition. Blitz has a good eye for story and has skillfully chosen the children whose stories he tells as they represent a wide array of races and economic backgrounds, and it is their stories which propel Spellbound forward. Most of the children are more intelligent than not only their peers, but also their parents who often watch incredulously as letters spew forth from their children's mouths forming words that even the Bee's official announcer has trouble pronouncing.
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What amazes me about Spellbound is the number of emotions I felt. I laughed, cried, got angry, and sat on the edge of my seat, all in a movie with no swearing, violence, sex, or even a romance, unless a love for spelling is considered romantic. Spellbound turns the saying “life imitates art” on its ear as Blitz craftily molds these eight different stories into a piece of art which produces emotions that hit our very core more effectively than anything that many of the most intelligent scriptwriters could produce. Life is art and what a relief Spellbound is in a summer chock full of movies that dazzle with their special effects while pumping out today's hits leaving some patrons feeling as though they have spent the hour and a half banging their head against a wall instead of enjoying a cinematic event.
The contestants are all very focused on their goal and strive unblinkingly towards it. Many of them spend all of their free time preparing for the competition. The Bee itself in many instances represents the first time that these uber intelligent kids have ever explored the U.S outside of their hometowns. With so much riding on their still young shoulders each defeat becomes that much more bitter and each victory so sweet. It is truly uplifting to watch a child jump and scream for sheer joy. Society has not shown them how to mask their inner feelings yet, making Blitz's close-ups on them while spelling agonizing for the audience as we watch the gears turning in their heads, sometimes contorting the speller's entire face.
I'm not sure that I like the way that American's are represented on television in “reality” shows. These programs depict us as gluttonous, cheating morons. Blitz sheds a light on a competition that has been around since the 1920's with Spellbound and has shown a reality that makes me feel more comfortable as I watch eight of the hard-working individuals who will help to shape our future.
The review of this Movie prepared by Christopher Bryan