In the age of spell check and Internet slang, it's shocking to find those remaining few who still avidly read, study, and worship that old friend, the dictionary. Spellbound is an enchanting documentary that chronicles the arduous journey of eight middle school spelling champs from their small towns to the big league--the National Spelling Bee.

So there's this Mexican, two Indians, an African American, a Jew, and a couple of rednecks. Sounds like the start of a good joke, but don't be mistaken. These kids are under tremendous pressure from peers, teachers, parents, and even ESPN to spell their way to the top and win first place. From a pool of nine million, only 249 will make it to the national competition. Some study, some pray, some simply rely on their own intelligence as their guide. The trouble is, it's all a game of luck. "I feel bad for the boy from Texas who got 'yenta'," one mother commented.

Clearly, the stars of the film are the spellers themselves. They go from "geek" status to "cool", congregating with others just like them. To these kids, winning the spelling bee means pure joy and fulfilled dreams.

Meanwhile, their families shine bright with their sideline play-by-plays and hysterical comments. It's hard to be outsmarted by your own eighth grade child. "I can't even pronounce these words. It's really sad," one parent says. But still, they gleam with pride as they watch their children squirm on the stage before them, trying to match words with sounds, relying on their own minds and the word's country of origin.

Spellbound triggers laugher, sympathy, and even a little nostalgic longing for the rewards of old-fashioned hard work. Some say you're witnessing a "different form of child abuse." Nonetheless, these spelling superstars will leave the audience amazed, dumbstruck and, well, speechless.


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