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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Documentary or mockumentary?
For the first ten minutes of Spellbound you could be forgiven for assuming that this is another sarcastic slice of American life from Christopher Guest - some of the characters featured in the opening scenes could so easily have been plucked from 'Best in Show'. But as the laughter subsides, you realise that this truly is a very watchable documentary and a great insight...
Published on 9 Jan 2005 by Helen Jenkins

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Answer to your question. The product doesn't meet expectations
This description is misleading : the picture is that of the DVD I would have expected to receive but it doesn't match the description (VHS) ...And I got a VHS which is totally beside the point....Of course, I have been kindly informed of a refund but I still don't know how to get what I want.

Best regards.
Published 4 months ago by Muriel LACOTTE


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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd piece of film, 26 Feb 2004
By 
Stephen Newton (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spellbound [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
For these kids, spelling is a sport as demanding as anything physical. But a sinister oddness permeates the film. Little touches – serif fonts last fashionable in the ’70s, washed out colours that made a California beach house cold and depressing – conspire against the subjects keep them in their weird nerd pigeonhole.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Institutionalised child performance, 21 Sep 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spellbound [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Not the classic 1945 Hitchcock thriller, but a much darker, more horrifying production altogether. "Spellbound" follows the torments of a handful of American children as they strive to win the annual national spelling competition.
The film begins by offering a fly-on-the-wall commentary on US lifestyles, but as the competition hots up, you are slowly drawn into the high pressure excitement of the final. We're introduced to the stars of the show - Angela is a bright, creative, vital lassie, daughter of Mexican immigrants. She shows delight at achievement - her parents have struggled to give their children a better chance in life.
Nupur comes from an Indian family and embodies the Indian work ethic. You sense the integrational aspect of the spelling competition - if you're a newcomer to this society, it's best to participate unquestioningly in the established rituals and processes if you want to be accepted. In the UK, there is orthodox commitment to multi-culturalism: in the USA, it's about being visibly and vocally American!
But school is boring. Away from Beverley Hills, American High Schools are not glamorous. There are fat kids here. There is poverty. There is ignorance. No Buffy or teenage television images of school. No elegance. The schools look like dumps.
We meet Teddy, a bit of a loner. Emily is competitive, wants to be valued as really good at something, but sees the irony of being able to spell a word whose meaning she does not know and which she will never use. Her mother describes the spelling competition as a form of child abuse!
And the competitors are subjected to relentless tutoring by teachers and parents. It's the worst aspect of learning by rote - dunning word after word into receptive minds. The intensity of the young people's lifestyle is obvious. We find Ashley, not well off by any means. And Neil, from an affluent Indian family - committed to the American dream, a school athlete but following in his sister's footsteps (she came fifth in the national finals).
April is from a blue collar family - her parents don't have the resources, so she has to work on her own, showing quiet determination ... and ironic awareness of the sheer tedium of her task. And then there's Harry, hyperactive, mercurial, intense.
There is no commentary. We meet the contestants, hear their own words, watch their real lives unfold before us, subject to only our own judgement of purpose and meaning. Which, of course, doesn't mean that the film makers don't have values or feelings. It's all in the editing, in the selection of material and its juxtaposition, defining the character of the contributors by editing their contributions.
And then it's the big final - after loads of local media coverage and celebrity, there are 249 regional winners alone in the big city ... regimented into white shirts and dehumanised by the placards hanging round their necks ... these are numbers, these are contestants, these are runners in the race. Are they still children? Are they still individuals?
A girl has kittens spelling 'lycanthrope', the blood draining from her face. Camera close-ups show the sweat and tension, the nervous tics, the joy at getting that next word right, of progressing to the next level of torture. These are circus performers - they just have to make up their mind whether they are performing animals or gladiators.
But you can sense that the kids are learning to show off, to become performers. They are no longer themselves, they are embryonic celebrities - once they're famous, will someone finally notice them and not just their performance? And there are those who express a sense of relief at being knocked out, at being allowed to escape back to the real world. And for others ... emotional collapse. You wonder how long it will be before they overcome a sense of failure, before the nightmares end.
And the torment continues. Weird, frozen expressions on the handful of survivors, the pressure cooker atmosphere getting more and more oppressive. Relief when it's over, "I can throw away the book!"
This is a film about making performers out of children, about using them as playthings and benchmarks of adult achievement. It's organised by a major company, it attracts vast publicity - it's as American as mom's supermarket bought burger. Riveting, painful in places, and far more horrific than anything Hitchcock made.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Answer to your question. The product doesn't meet expectations, 17 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Spellbound [VHS] [2003] (VHS Tape)
This description is misleading : the picture is that of the DVD I would have expected to receive but it doesn't match the description (VHS) ...And I got a VHS which is totally beside the point....Of course, I have been kindly informed of a refund but I still don't know how to get what I want.

Best regards.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More tension than any action movie, 22 Aug 2004
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spellbound [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
This is probably the most involving movie I have ever watched. I defy anybody watching it not to be spelling along with the kids every step of the way. Do yourself a favour and take a night off and watch this. The tension that builds as the contest reaches its climax is almost unbearable something I could not say about the last dozen so called "action movies" I have seen. The film also confirms, for me, that children are most defintely an alien species!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute and clever, 31 Jan 2005
This is a documentary film that follows the lives of 8 American high school kids (aged 11-15?) as they pit their wits against other clever-clogs in the national Spelling Bee. I had heard good things about this film although the subject matter didn't exactly appeal to me but I thought I'd check it out. I found it really enjoyable, funny and educational, heheh, I couldn't have pronounced many of the words they were given, let alone spell them! I found myself rooting for certain characters and was just thoroughly entertained the whole time.
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Spellbound [DVD] [2003]
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