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Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  28 April 2006 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 14,703 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 169 user | 95 critic | 30 from Metacritic.com

A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.



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12 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Javier (as JR Villarreal)
Georgia (as Sahara Garey)
Steve (as Jeris Lee Poindexter)


Eleven year-old Akeelah Anderson's life is not easy: her father is dead, her mom ignores her, her brother runs with the local gangbangers. She's smart, but her environment threatens to strangle her aspirations. Responding to a threat by her school's principal, Akeelah participates in a spelling bee to avoid detention for her many absences. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she wins. Her principal asks her to seek coaching from an English professor named Dr. Larabee for the more prestigious regional bee. As the possibility of making it all the way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee looms, Akeelah could provide her community with someone to rally around and be proud of -- but only if she can overcome her insecurities and her distracting home life. She also must get past Dr. Larabee's demons, and a field of more experienced and privileged fellow spellers. Written by Shannon Patrick Sullivan <shannon@mun.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Changing the world... one word at a time.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 April 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A som i Akeelah  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$6,011,585 (USA) (28 April 2006)


$18,811,135 (USA) (14 July 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The filmmakers initially considered Sidney Poitier to play Dr. Larabee before deciding they wanted someone younger, and then selected Laurence Fishburne. See more »


The plaque on the wall in Dr. Larabee's office, which he makes Akeelah read, wrongly attributes the quote to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural speech. This is a common mistake, but Nelson Mandela has never used that quote in any of his published speeches. The quote is from Marianne Williamson an American spiritual activist. See more »


Akeelah: Okay. But when I'm at the bee, and they tell me to spell some little fish from Australia or some weird bacteria on the moon, we're going to wish we'd done a little bit more "rotemorizing" and not so much essay reading. If you don't mind me saying.
Dr. Larabee: Bacteria don't exist on the moon.
See more »


Features E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) See more »


Written by Heather Small and Peter John Vettese (as Peter Vettese)
Performed by Heather Small
Courtesy of Sony BMG Music Entertainment (U.K.) Limited
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Inspiring and necessary
7 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I went to an advance screening and found "Akeelah" to be so much more than I expected. I sat in the theater dabbing tears from eyes throughout the showing. The emotional weight, story-telling approach and female perspective in "Akeelah" is much like that of POETIC JUSTICE (also set in South Central, LA).

"Akeelah" has GREAT cast performances. As a mentor to Akeelah, Laurence Fishburne continuously reminded me of his nurturing position in BOYZ N THE HOOD - I thought of FINDING FORRESTER and THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE as well. Fishburne looks spectacular with Angela Bassett who knows all the right expressions and vocal tones to have the powerful realism she does in her role as a fearful parent in South Central. Keke Palmer, she is definitely on the rise... pretty girl too. Several strong subplots come about in the first half of "Akeelah." They deal with the painful past of Dr. Larabee (Fishburne), lack of time and attention from Akeelah's overworked mother (Bassett), a teetering relationship between Akeelah and her best friend Georgia (Sahara Garey), and the problems of one of Akeelah's brothers who spends his time out late on the streets of South Central.

Apart from the dramatic mood of "Akeelah," there's an excellent amount of comedy. Many of the jokes are in the things that aren't said but seen (watch the father of Akeelah's major opponent). The most hilarious part of the film, IMO, involves the loyalty of Akeelah's friend Javier (J.R. Villarreal) - you'll know the scene when you see it.

From a more objective standpoint, I felt that many of the scene cuts/transitions in "Akeelah" weren't too clean. I forget all about it though when I reflect on the emotional montages that center around Akeelah, her family and the people of her community. If you remember the standout poem ("our deepest fear...") recited in COACH CARTER, you might feel that "Akeelah" twice makes trite use of it. However, different lines of the poem are read this time around. The pacing of "Akeelah" is good, especially when it comes to how Akeelah learns and advances in the National Spelling Bee. "Akeelah" makes the competition look and feel suspenseful at times, but more importantly, it focuses on the rewards found by those who believe in themselves. Kids in the theater I went to were spelling aloud from the very first scene.

The ending -- I won't spoil it -- combines the pieces of humor, triumph and sadness in "Akeelah" in one of the most beautiful finishes I've ever seen, felt and heard from a movie. You MUST go see AKEELAH AND THE BEE!! You'll leave the theater highly inspired by the best word given in the film ("L-O-V-E").

60 of 76 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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