A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.
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. —Shannon Patrick Sullivan <email@example.com>
I've rated this feel-good fable higher than I would otherwise...
...for two reasons: one, it features a lovely, nuanced performance from a young actor, Keke "The Wool Cap" Palmer, who will most definitely be a performer to watch over the next several decades, and two, it reunites Lawrence "The Matrix" Fishburne and Angela "The Score" Bassett in roles decidedly different from those they played in "What's Love Got to Do With It?" Beyond that, I'm sorry to say, "Akeelah and the Bee" is pretty much Movie-of-the-Week manipulative and as formulaic as a WWF match. Clichés and stereotypes abound, and even the ending is straight out of the feel-good "everyone's a winner!" playbook (and don't get me started on the absurdly easy word that pops up for Akeelah to wrap everything up in glorious, pseudo-ironic fashion). Nonetheless, I still give the film props for its positive message, if not its overtly rose-colored glasses. I still prefer "Spellbound" as a spelling bee drama; there's just as much tension rooting for the success of the contestants, and best of all, they're real people.
- Jul 31, 2009
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