VideoVista
-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-


SF, fantasy, horror, mystery website
illustrated SF and general satire
action movie heroines
helicopters in movies and TV
VideoVista is published by PIGASUS Press

copyright © 2001 - 2004 VideoVista
 
 
April 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Spellbound

producer and director: Jeffrey Blitz

96 minutes (U) 2003
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
Spellbound's director Jeff Blitz displays great sensitivity to his material and allows an intimate glimpse into the lives of eight very different children and teenagers preparing for the 1999 American national spelling bee, without ever appearing intrusive or exploitative. Whilst some of the parents, particularly Neil's psychopathically pushy father and April's frightening mother, with a penchant for bad puns on the word 'bee', are not cast in a flattering light, even the strangest children have their charms and vulnerability brought to the fore.
   The clever use of music throughout the documentary is one of many elements that make it feel more like a feature film. The music used insistently recalls the soundtrack to American Beauty, and this documentary, exhibiting all the pre-millennial quirks and pathos of American society, could form a factual companion piece to Sam Mendes' take on suburban American obsessions and social interactions.
   It is very rare to find a documentary that makes you want to watch it again the moment it finishes, but the strength of the personalities and stories makes an instant revisit appealing. This is a wonderful release to own and come back to, and amongst numerous other awards and nominations, it was rightly Oscar-nominated in the category of Best Documentary Feature 2003.
   The DVD has a range of appropriate and engaging special features, which together make up a far better package than many much more high profile DVD releases. These include a trailer, deleted scenes which introduce us to three spellers who missed out on appearing in the main feature, an educational guide, a spelling game and a hangman game. There is a revealing audio commentary by the filmmakers, but it can only, rather oddly, be played over the main feature film, which is distracting and frustrating. Much better, however, is an epilogue section that indicates what happened to each speller after the film ended. There is no better way to bring home how much this film teaches you to care about each of its 'characters'.
NEXT

Did you find this review helpful? Any comments are always welcome!
Please support VideoVista, buy stuff online using these links - Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com  Blackstar 
HK Flix  WH Smith  Argos.co.uk