This irresistible, Oscar-nominated documentary takes us inside the intensely competitive world of the annual National Spelling Bee, introducing us to a diverse group of uniformly brilliant children, each intent on winning the grand prize. Interviewed at home with their parents, we discover these over-achievers come from all walks of life, and their revealing back stories complement the suspenseful competition.
The crowd-pleasing quality of "Spellbound" comes from the likeability of the eight kids featured, and the laudable values of self-discipline and self-improvement reflected in the parents' encouragement and coaching of their gifted progeny. Part of the fun, too, is trying to guess which of these word wizards — a boy from rural Missouri, an African-American girl from Washington D.C., a precocious child of privilege from suburban Connecticut — will triumph; but visibly agonized, socially awkward Harry Altman, from New Jersey, is the film's de facto icon. "Spellbound" will jangle your nerves and charm your socks off.