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Movie Review: Spellbound

Story: How do you spell t-e-r-r-i-f-i-c? This Oscar nominee for Best Documentary certainly fits the bill (it lost to Bowling for Columbine). New Jersey, novice director Jeffrey Blitz lovingly follows 8 finalists as they make their way into the National Spelling Bee which is held in Washington, DC, each June. We are introduced to each kid and their family in short segments for the first half of the film. The second part of the story brings us to DC for the finals.

It is entertaining, suspense ridden, emotional, dramatic, comic and simply riveting! It is hard to believe a film about a spelling bee could be so enjoyable - but trust me, it is. Even the sports network ESPN thinks it is worthy of broadcast news as they cover the last round of the finals each year on their sports network. Spelling as sport...what a grand concept. It turns out I learned that these spelling bees are a uniquely American thing. I admit to having some hope for our future when I saw these kids. Try to find this film in your local art house. You will not regret the experience.

Acting: Not applicable in this documentary category but all of the kids and their families were winners just being themselves.

Predilections: I have a love/hate relationship with spelling bees. I still remember my own horror as I was beeped out of my eighth grade competition when I represented my school (PS 222) in the district finals. With an audience filled with parents and kids I missed spelling 'SHELLAC.' It is funny how I don't recall the words I spelled correctly, but I will never forget the word shellac.

Critters: Horses, chickens and a wonderful Jack Russell Terrier who stole every scene in which he appeared.

Food: Almost every kid was too nervous to eat.

Visual Art: The homes of each family were filled with wonderful visual delights.

Blatant Product Placement: Not really applicable in a documentary but I must mention ESPN and the Miriam Webster Dictionary.

Soundtrack: None that I can recall.

Opening Titles: The opening was a close-up of one of the finalists. We were pulled right into the delightful film.

Theater Audience: We were lucky in this crowded theater to be sitting near the grandparents of one of the finalists depicted in the film. Harry, the adorable kid from Glen Rock, NJ was their grandson. So we chatted with them a bit before the film and of course spent some quality time with her afterwards, when we too, were in love with Harry.

Quirky Meter: 3

Squirm Scale: It was nerve wracking to watch the kids get beeped out of competition but fortunately they all became our favorites and we just cheered for the ones that were left standing.

Predictability Level: There is only one winner. It was tense.

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Nit Picking: No nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Absolutely - big screen.

Length: Under the two hour rule.

LOBO HOWLS: How do you spell N-I-N-E?