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Akeelah and the Bee
Drama, Family
IMDB rating:
Doug Atchison
Keke Palmer as Akeelah
Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Larabee
Curtis Armstrong as Mr. Welch
J.R. Villarreal as Javier
Sean Michael Afable as Dylan (as Sean Michael Afable)
Sahara Garey as Georgia
Julito McCullum as Terrence
Erica Hubbard as Kiana
Eddie Steeples as Derrick-T
Dalia Phillips as Ms. Cross
Tzi Ma as Mr. Chiu
Jeris Poindexter as Steve (as Jeris Lee Poindexter)
Storyline: 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.
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This Movie ROCKS~!
This movie is a must see! Out of 10 stars its rated a solid 10!its a movie the whole family will enjoy. Although it contains some violence and swearing its still a classic. So the next time you want to rent a movie i recommend renting AKEELAH AND THE BEE! This movie is about Akeelah, the only girl in her school who is good in spelling. Although she ditches some classes her teacher wants her to represent the school by going to the national spelling bee.Although she has a tough life With the help of her mom, brother(s),strict/ but kind tutor akeelah makes new friends and makes it to the nationals.Time awaits But will she win the spelling bee? See this movie. It totally rockz.

Thanx so much for reading this review!=)
A likable movie
Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah Anderson is is a talented 11 yr girl who can memorize truckloads of spellings in an instant, spell words like prostedigitization or something like that correctly even though she might be hearing it for the first time, and regularly max out scores on scrabble.A natural for the spelling bee contest, u had say. But before u spell out w-i-n-n-e-r, wait!For starters, she does not know that there is a thing like a spelling contest.Added to that, she is a reluctant person who does not like being under the spotlight for she is afraid of failure.And just to make things more interesting, she is parented by a single mother who is having her own difficulties adjusting the work life balance after her husband dies. A recipe perfect for an ugly-duckling-turns-swan kinda movie. Oh but there is one thing missing.What Dumbledore was to Harry, Morrpheus to Neo,Yoda to Luke.Yes!a teacher, a motivator,a guide!Though nowhere as exotic as these guys, what we have here is a UCLA professor who himself was a Bee contest winner but has now retired from the taxing job of managing pesky kids to the more serene hobby of gardening.He sees the potential in Akeelah, and agrees to train her.Our setting is almost complete.Throw in a bunch of other kids (ur typical 'best friend' ur helpful co-competitor' , ur 'i am not here to make friends, i m here to win' smartass kid) and there! its done!lights camera action!

OK! OK, enough of the sarcasm. the movie is quite good actually.Keke Palmer is cute and likable as Akeelah.Laurence Fishburne plays the subdued, grumpy professor with a past to perfection.The screenplay is also smartly crafted out to tug at ur heart strings, and u end up getting involved into the movie, cheering Akeelah and holding ur breath every time she's called on to spell some wickedly difficult word. The movie neither promises nor delivers anything new.It is just one of those movies to watch with ur family, have a good time ,and then forget all about it.
Good movie - be patient though ...
I have to admit, I almost quit watching this movie after the first hour - the backstory is really boring. But in the last 35 minutes, the film really improves.

This is a story about an 11 year old girl who gets nudged into entering a series of spelling bee contests. She comes from a poor neighborhood and school district where there are pressures to succeed (teachers/etc.) and fail (demeaning friends).

Her struggle through these issues and the social interactions she has as she makes her way up the bee competition is the basis of the movie (it's fictional, by the way).

The performances of all the actors are fine, the story is just kind of dead for the first hour. It only gets better when it gets focused on her efforts to succeed.

I can't really recommend this movie for most adults - especially if you've seen other similar movies like "Spellbound". But it's definitely something good for a younger audience to watch as long as you can keep them watching through the first half.
An unapologetically schmaltzy affair
"Akeelah and the Bee" (Starbucks Entertainment's first feature) is another feature focused on the tough and extremely vexing sport of competitive spelling better known as The Spelling Bee Almost becoming a sub-genre of sorts, the most prominent of these eponymic features include the tense and awesome documentary "Spellbound" and the drama "Bee Season" with Richard Gere. It has a sort of unsettling charm in the idea of harried kids pushed into the spotlight for the "most important thing" (according to their parents and peers) that they'd ever do in their lives. It makes looking at that one nervous guy before final exams pale in comparison.

Akeelah (Keke Palmer) is the customary template for youngsters that break the environmental mold from which they come from. The perennial nurture vs. nature debate rages again as Akeelah finds herself pitted against privileged and wealthy kids her age that are all vying for the same prize. As she's an African-American girl who depends on her single mother, and looking out for her wayward siblings in a troubled neighbourhood, she also has the distinction of being the smartest girl in her middle school. She also has a prodigious affinity for words and the English language.

She spells these words magnificently, surprising everyone but her mother (Angela Bassett) who's too busy to notice. As incidents naturally leads to circumstance, she finds herself pushed to represent her disadvantaged school in the state Spelling Bee competition to not get left behind. Under the tutelage of Dr Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), she finds the necessary strength of character to raise her up from her inhibitions. Predictable right? Undoubtedly, it is. But therein lies its main draw. It does not deny what it is, which is a family drama that's inherently preachy and sugarcoated at the end. Beneath its sentimentality's is a film full up with heartfelt messages that are inspirational whether or not cynicisms get in the way of it. It's ardent conventionality needs the categorised supporting characters such as the well-meaning competitor and the Machiavellian adversary with a secret.

In many ways, Akeelah is lucky to be who she is. Non-descript characters come and go around her neighbourhood but it's easily discernible that she's not as bad off as we are led to believe. Compared to her peers in Woodland Hills and Beverly Hills, she's just the "little black girl" but she's also the girl who's richer in the bank of love as it were. The alienation she feels at home in her neighbourhood is as potent as the alienation she feels shoved in the spotlight of America's affluent. As she finds her place in one, she finds her place in the world by realising that winning is an important goal to have but having the courage to try is the real achievement.

Something admirable about writer-director Doug Atchison's pitch in crafting these social issues is that he doesn't raise class prejudices and racial stereotypes onto the pulpit but never waters down the issues by blatantly whitewashing it. He reinforces these stereotypes by lighting dapping them with observations and pragmatism but never creates caricatures of them. The formidable Fishburne and Bassett team seen in "Boyz n the Hood" and "What's Love Got To Do With It" still exudes the intensity we've come to realise from the pairing. As the two central parental figures in Akeelah's life, they tear her down with their demons and prop her back up with their better angels. Keke Palmer must have given the best performance by a youngster this year with Akeelah. She upstages her more magnetic co-stars with erudite resilience having carried the entire film on her deceptively scrawny shoulders. She makes this film a testament to the potential of adolescents.

An unapologetically schmaltzy affair, "Akeelah and the Bee" is a film about messages. It's a homily about shaking free the shackles of apprehension through knowledge. By showing the willingness of people who want to change and see the potential that they've lost in those around them, it's ultimately about forgiving the misgivings of others and most importantly forgiving one's self. As far as "feel good" movies go, this one is a definite keeper and is definitely one of my favourites this year. I-n-d-u-b-i-t-a-b-l-y.
Could be playing Onslaught! right now, but Keke Palmer is not.
A National spelling bee, a girl from south Los Angeles, and a retired Professor of English. What does that make for? A feel good movie about a girl who overcomes and wins, despite the drawbacks.

The film has a certain Disney-esquire feel to it, without the Disney brand. Nor does it afford the names Disney can afford. However, this film might jump-start the career of Keke Palmer.

It is kind of typical in the sense that the underdog student comes out on top over the big winning student. Yet they all become friends? I suppose to be a valuable insight for people, however it is not realistic.

The student-retired-professor bond isn't that spectacular, but isn't great either. And in real life not often do whole communities get behind one student at the expense of another.

Overall, its sub-par. Acting is OK, but its needs a lot of work. "D+"
A really nice family story, with spelling bees as the vehicle.
I am a sucker for sentimental movies, especially of young people trying to accomplish things against odds. Here Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) has a natural talent for spelling, but is a mediocre student, partly because of not wanting to stand out, not wanting to be seen as different by her friends. (Similar theme in Finding Forrester.) But she gets talked into competing at her mediocre school, and wins the spelling bee easily.

Enter Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Larabee, on sabbatical to recover emotionally from the loss of his family. He was once a champion speller and he sees in Akeelah the potential to be a national winner, in her first attempt as an 11 year old, but she will also need some serious coaching. He volunteers for that role.

Angela Bassett is good as Akeelah's hardened mother, Tanya, who is not at all in favor of her daughter "playing games" to learn to spell better. She does not see the value when things are so hard for the family without a dad, but whose photo inspires Akeelah.

Curtis Armstrong (who can forget him as 'Booger' in 1984??) is the school Principal Mr. Welch. Young J.R. Villarreal is good as fellow speller Javier Mendez, who befriends Akeelah to help her overcome her inhibitions spelling in front of an audience. Sean Michael is Dylan Chiu, pressured by his Asian father to win this time, as he had finished second two years in a row. Can Akeelah actually get goo enough to defeat Dylan? That's partly what the movie is about.

There are a few places where the movie comes across as a bit sappy and overly sentimental, but that is a very small point. Overall it is a lovely movie for anyone who likes a good family oriented story.

SPOILERS. The coaching gets off to a rocky start, but eventually works and Akeelah makes it to Washington for the finals. It eventually comes down to her and Dylan. The first one to miss will be out, if the other spells the next word correctly. Akeelah as seen how severe Dylan's dad is, and to do them a favor, she purposely misses a word that even Dylan knows that she knows. Stunned, he purposely misses the next word also, a short break is called. Dylan doesn't want to win that way, he encourages Akeelah to do her best. They both end up spelling all the rest correctly, a tie is declared, they both win first place, they are both champions.
The Bee Stings
What a wonderful way to highlight the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the families, the competitors, and the schools behind them. There aren't many films that highlight and accentuate the problems of an eleven year old girl, growing up, while the world falls apart around them. Regardless of color, this film is the epitome of an underdog clawing her way through mediocrity to the top.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others"-Marianne Williamson.

Her thoughts echo throughout the movie and resonate within us all. How wonderful to be able to cheer on a strong, sensitive, brilliant young girl who isn't vying for the hand of a prince, courtesy of Disney, or who isn't pressured into a lifestyle that so many others fall to.

The only problem I had with the movie was the stereotype of the Asian, "Tiger Mother" and the physical abuse of the father of the adversary, Dylan Chu. There really wasn't a med to show the father striking his son. We all know the pressure placed on children, by their parents, to excel in these competitions. We all know that pressure weighs heavily, not only on the child, but on the family too. Overall, a wonderful film, directed at a difficult to pin down target audience. I wish there were more like this one. Well written, well acted, P.E.R.F.E.C.T.
Spelling Bee adventure is a family affair and nurturing character growth process - a wholesome dose of fun and excitement for family movie-going
Having thoroughly enjoyed the exciting Jeffrey Blitz documentary "Spellbound" 2002, and was in awe at the amazing debut performance by young Flora Cross who held her own playing opposite Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche in the complex family drama "Bee Season" 2005, one would think what a third film on Spelling Bee contestants might offer. "Akeelah and the Bee" lived up to the challenge. (Apparently, the script was there several years ago, it's the woeful tale of struggling filmmakers trying to direct their own script.) Kudos to Lions Gate Films for their production vision and distribution facility, giving 'budding' filmmakers their break. Noticed the collaboration of Starbucks Entertainment - this being their first production feature!

Writer-director Doug Atchison has the perseverance to hold on to his goal of directing his own script and the integrity to stand by his script in having the mentor character (Professor Larabee) to be black (vs. some studio executive wanted him to alter/compromise otherwise). Yes, "Akeelah and the Bee" is quite an upbeat story, diversity abound, family approaches with the three major spelling bee contestants involved (Akeelah, black; Javier, Hispanic; Dylan, Asian), and insights into the educational methods in how a contestant is 'groomed'/trained (it's hard work, no kidding). The story does not stop there, it went further to include community camaraderie and all the possible colors of the rainbow goodness (cliché or not it doesn't matter), besides the expected tension/suspense of the outcome of each word being spelled out by any of the contestants on stage. This is truly a wholesome dose of family movie-going experience and on high school teenagers 'growing pains'.

The cast is wonderful. There's the steady performances from Laurence Fishburne (also one of the film's producers) as the stern Professor Larabee and Angela Bassett as Akeelah's firm Mom (slight 'Déjà Vu' of "What's Love Got To Do With It" 1993). The young supporting actors: J.R. Villareal as the charming, friendly Javier; Sean Michael Afable as the aloof, super star speller Dylan; both are fabulous. Yes, the real star is Keke Palmer portraying Akeelah Anderson and Akeelah is Keke - an astonishingly solid performance from this young actress, full of energy and radiance. The music complementing the film sequences is by Aaron Zigman ("The Notebook" 2004). Noticed the production crew list is quite long and well-deserved result from everyone's creative/technical efforts. A superior Hollywood film, indeed.

After seeing "Akeelah and the Bee," I was interested in knowing what else Atchison has done. Turned out this is not his first feature film - he has written, directed and co-produced "The Pornographer" 1999, an interesting storyline about a lonely young man who's successful in his paralegal career, but has problem in dating, hence resorting to other means - not exploitative as the title might suggest. It's actually quite a decent (pardon the pun) indie film, available on DVD with Atchison appearing for a Director's Statement, and on the audio commentary along with lead actor Michael DeGood (is Paul), co-producers Craig Wasson (is Spano) and Kathryn Cain (is Kate) and director of photography Christopher Mosio. You might say it's an entertaining psychological study but not at all stuffy.
Warm, subtle family story.
It's the story of a black middle-school girl (Keke Palmer) from the wrong Los Angeles neighborhood who comes out of nowhere and -- exercising her native skill and a good deal of patience -- manages to tie for the championship in the national spelling bee.

We know ahead of time that, as in "Searching for Bobby Fisher", "Stand and Deliver," or any number of similar stories, she's not going to lose. (Unless they pull an ambiguous ending, as in "Rocky", to leave room for a sequel.

That's not really where the drama lies. This tiny, spunky girl, upon whom so much responsibility rests, has to deal with a dysfunctional family, a peer group that hates her for her excellence, an obsessive spelling coach (Lawrence Fishburn), and the usual challenges associated with correctly spelling words such as "logorrhea" and "xylum" -- I mean "xylem." Except for the uplifting ending, which leaves everybody celebrating, except for the one or two thousand kids who didn't make the cut, it doesn't really pull many punches, though neither does it deliver them too forcefully. Her miscreant brother, for instance, who hangs out with gangsta types, sees Akeelah's pursuit of the championship -- and even her interest in scholarly subjects -- as a sell out of her black heritage. She's getting a little too white for him, and he lets her know it too. (Alas, it all turns out all right at the end when the brother's gangsta boss turns out to have a long-buried interest in literature that he is able, with no difficulty, to exhume. We never do learn just what this boss does for a living, but that's a punch that had to land softly, otherwise this might have been an entirely different kind of movie.) Akeelah's mother is a tough, beautiful woman trying to keep a family together when they are being pulled apart by conflicting interests, some of them okay (the U. S. Air Force), others not so savory.

And Lawrence Fishburn as the coach has to learn to chill out and not be so humorless. He learns this from Akeelah when she gives him an explicit lecture on the subject.

Now, this is no work of art and the territory it covers is mostly familiar, but not entirely so. Black kids will be able to get into this and may get quite a lot out of it. Kids of other races will enjoy it too, though they may not quite grasp why Akeelah's classmates come to shun her.

Living is made up of cooperation and competition. The movie recognizes this. But it offers broader horizons for both success strategies than most of us are aware of. Yes, you need to be loyal to your family and friends, but you can feel allegiance to less commonly acknowledged values as well. (Let's call this one "self fulfillment.") And competition needn't be limited to the basketball court or the dating scene. You can spread it around a little more than that. And there's no need to be intimidated by someone else's race or ethnic group. If this film tries to teach us anything -- and it does -- that's the lesson. It's not really about spelling bees, which are silly anyway. I came in second in the fifth grade, just because snooty Barbara Lukashinsky knew how to spell "nickel" correctly. What a ridiculous word. It SHOULD be spelled "nickle."

For the most part, this is a mature film made for families, somewhat more than an after-school special. Not bad.
Always figured this was a stupid kids movie - but it's great
Uplifting story about a young girl who's father has died, her mother works to support her and the girl seems alone in the world in many ways. She goes to school in a poor neighborhood that doesn't have all of the resources for her to have the best education possible. One thing that she does have is words. Her intellect and her knowledge for words are great and her school needs help with getting it on the map and they want to use Akeelah to help show that their children at the school need the same advantages other students get. Akeelah wins a spelling bee and then is coached by a man telling her that she needs to learn different words and to be able to break them down and know their origins...Akeelah eventually learns a lot about herself, her family, her neighborhood and she reaches for the stars and doesn't let fear hold her back.

I always thought it was just a stupid kids film about a spelling Bee, but I watched it and was rather touched by the message here. No one should let the place they come from or the people around them stop them from dreaming big and trying to do the best they can in life. Life is not written in stone for you when you are born and anyone has the power to rise above.

Laurence Fisburne, Angela Bassett, Curtis Armstrong and Keke Palmer do wonderful jobs acting here.

This is a good drama and it has some powerful messages. 6/10 stars
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