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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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Not exactly "formulaic"--this is a nice and far from sappy inspirational film
Akeelah is a very bright girl living in South Los Angeles. When the film begins, she has little to motivate her and her great mind is going to waste. When the school spelling bee approaches, she is reticent to participate because there is a climate in the school that encourages "not buying into the system"--in other words, accepting failure as the only alternative.

Not surprisingly, Akeelah eventually enters the bee and does well, though she isn't exactly motivated to go further--especially because most of the people around her don't recognize her wonderful gift. Again, not surprisingly, she eventually goes forward and gains instant fame for going as far as she has. Will she make it to the nationals and if so, will she win? You'll just have to see. However, I will say that although some of the film is formulaic (after all, they wouldn't make a film with this title if she didn't win at some level!), it does offer some nice twists and ends very well.

The movie features wonderful performances all around, a very good script and it is truly inspiring. I am sure than there are some reviews out there that talk about this movie using terms like "formulaic" or "sappy", but I truly found this film inspirational AND different. I especially liked the movie because I am a school teacher and it's nice to have a film that minority students can be inspired by that's NOT a sports film! In many ways, I see this movie as a public service since it encourages kids from the less privileged neighborhoods to aspire to intellectual heights.

This film is a must-see for kids and families, but ANYONE will enjoy this film if they give it a chance--it's not just some feel good movie with no substance.
Very Good
The overall plot of this encouraging movie is well done for the first production for Starbucks Coffee. It was a six million dollar, short-production movie. It is a must-see for families. I went into watching this movie thinking it was going to be some little kids movie. However, I was proved wrong early on in the movie, and throughout the movie. It is very positive for all of the family and is good for positive, uplifting entertainment. That is all I can say for this movie, but I will say again that it is a must see and you will not be disappointed. It is a definite 10 out of 10. Definitely worth a movie rental or whatever.
A New Twist on the Student-Teacher Film
"Akeelah and the Bee" tells the story of an 11 year old child prodigy named Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer). Though she lives in the notorious section of South Central Los Angeles, she is able to rise above her situation. We are told straight off that she's special. Akeelah skipped the second grade and despite admitting that she didn't study for a spelling test, she receives an A+ anyway. It is her special talent at spelling which catches the attention of her teacher, principal (Curtis Armstrong), and a former professor, Joshua Larabee, who will later become her coach (Laurence Fishburne). Under the professor's expert tutelage, with the support of her school and community, and her own unique talent Akeelah finds herself at the regional, state, and finally the national spelling bee in Washington D.C.

As with many student-teacher movies, Akeelah and the Bee borrows themes from other successful films in this genre. The teacher with a tragic past (The Karate Kid), the minority student from the wrong side of the tracks (Stand and Deliver), the doubting parent who eventually comes around and acknowledges the child's talent (Billy Elliot). However, this film has a character we have rarely if ever seen before – a black, female child prodigy. There have been films that have portrayed African-American students, but they are usually paired with a Caucasian mentor (Finding Forrester). Here we see a black, female child prodigy whose mentor is also black, yet race is not a forefront issue in the film. It is delicately touched upon in a couple scenes such as Akeelah's best friend who is hesitant to join a suburban birthday party whose guests appear to be primarily white or the father of Akeelah's rival who reprimands his son for almost having lost what was to be a fun game of Scrabble to a "little black girl." The father and son at first appear to be stereotypical Asian characters, but we later learn that perhaps there is more to them than just a diligent Asian work ethic. Likewise, Akeelah's love interest, Javier Mendez (J.R. Villareal), doesn't fit the Latino stereotype as he's from a affluent suburban neighborhood with a journalist father. Even the leader of her brother's gang defies stereotypes when he orders the brother to help his sister study rather than hang out with the gang.

As Akeelah's success increases so does the mounting pressure. With each win she sees her popularity spreading both in her community and through the media. The stakes are high. A national win means prestige and a much needed cash boost for her economically depressed school, and proving to her detractors that a little black girl from the ghetto can win a national academic contest.

Like many underdog stories (Rocky), we are doubtless rooting for Akeelah not only to win the national spelling bee, but also in her personal life. She is surrounded by reminders of where she comes from. At home her brother has joined a gang and her sister is a single mother. Her ticket out of the old neighborhood and to college may rest solely on her success in spelling since she's failing other subjects. Along with the underdog and student-teacher themes, the film also borrows elements from other movies such as the deceased father (Little Voice) and has the usual stock characters such as the wisecracking best friend.

Despite these cinematic clichés, Akeelah and the Bee, displayed several moments of humor and charm an example being the affection between Akeelah and Javier. It also attempts to break down racial and social stereotypes by adding additional layers to characters that could easily have been categorized as flat. The film's greatest strength is the fine performances by the actors in particular, young Keke Palmer. Ms. Palmer whom I have last seen in the A&E movie, "Knights of the South Bronx," is an exceptional child actress with a grace and intelligence needed to succeed in the business. She is reminiscent of a young Jodi Foster, and I hope like Ms. Foster, Ms. Palmer will find comparable success.
A Standard Formula Story, But Still Charming With Great Performances
Yes, this movie is formulaic and predictable, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it. This was a thoroughly charming movie that uses the formula quite well and has a stand-out performance from Laurence Fishburne.

Keke Palmer does good as Akeelah, the underdog of the film. As to be expected, she has the audience on her side. Laurence Fishburne is outstanding as Dr. Larabee. The character is calm and controlled like Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid," and Fishburne brings all the right qualities to the role.

The film moves at a good pace and the script has some strong moments. The scenes with Dr. Larabee showing Akeelah how to spell all those words were very interesting.

Of course, the final spelling bee has you rooting the entire time. I thought it was a nice touch that it ended in a draw between Akeelah and Dylan. It was a nice new thing they tried.

I couldn't help but be entertained and charmed by this movie. Worth seeing for all underdog fans.

Spell Along with Akeelah!!
I really enjoyed seeing this movie yesterday with a friend of mine. Of course, she had to keep nudging me, as I was "spelling along" with the movie! They have sing-along movies ("Sound of Music", "Rocky Horror Picture Show") -- perhaps this will be the world's first (and only) "spell-along" movie! What I really liked about the picture was that it made it seem OK (even cool) to be brainy. It's scary how peer pressure can hold bright kids back, so I hope this film makes it glamorous to be bookish. God knows there are enough films that make it glamorous and cool to ditch school and shoot people. It was wonderful how Akeelah's community came together to help her learn her words in preparation for the National Bee. A fine contrast to the "crabs in a barrel" peer pattern which sometimes holds kids back.

Some have complained that the movie was somewhat predictable. This is certainly true - but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed looking forward to seeing Akeelah surmount her obstacles.

Also good were the two contrasting young men in the Bee. One is a good friend, and the other is a rival. I really felt bad for the rival, who had a very demanding "Bee Father" (sort of like a backstage mother). For those who have worked in any field where children are expected to "perform" (i.e., dance, music, theatre, whatever), this type of character is all too painfully real. There are vicious competitors out there, but Fishburne's character was right to teach his student Akeelah about meaning over rote form. A very good picture. I would have given it a ten but the last word was too easy.
This is a must-see movie for everyone on Planet Earth. I must admit that I was skeptical that a movie about a spelling bee could be interesting. However, I had heard very positive comments, so I decided to check it out.

From the title, it sounds like a Disney movie for the younger crowd. However I have to say that the star of this film is so charming, and the directing and writing so good, that my attention never wandered throughout the whole film.

I highly recommend this movie for all ages, but especially for students approaching their teens years. But adults will get a big kick out of this movie too, especially people who don't need to see blood all over the place to get excited about a film.
Lately Touch, But deeply moved
I am Chinese who also study English a basically course in China, many years ago I already known from the Locak TV News report there is such a wonderful competition named "National Bee" which happened in US each year, but only got a few of pictures. Today there is the trailer played in Chinese national movie channel which name is "Akeelah and the Bee". I quickly search it online, and watch this movie immediately, what I found in this movie is deeply moved me, I love that black girls, no matter who is the winner in the end, I think almost every bee will do the same difficulties when they prepare the competition, I don't think there is any shortcut to success, but a good method is needed, I really don't want to say any more good for this movie, anyway it is a old movie 3 year ago. But what i thinking about is US, a new country, where the language is from another country-British, but make English as a beautiful art, to enjoy it, to make is more beautiful from children's, not a tool only. This make think about my country-China, which the language names Chinese, a longer history, a complex language system. But no one can dig it deeply, or make such a good competition on TV or stage, I feel shamed about now the Youngers cannot read Chinese clearly, and many many different local languages, and even someone can not write clearly their own native language. Anyway, I love this movie, maybe i wrote a lot of things that without this movie, but it really from my heart, sorry for my English is poor,hey hey
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.
I hope my spelling measures up
Keke Palmer (Akeelah) was nominated for 7 awards and won 4 of them and deservedly so.

She was Akeelah in this film and this young lady has a very bright future in the film world ahead of her.

I never thought I could enthuse over a film about a spelling contest, but I found myself enthralled in it.

I thought I was an excellent speller but the words these young people were asked to spell put me well in the shade. If these are indicative of the words the Scripps US National Spelling Bee expect their young participants to spell, I will never be up to the grade.

The cast was put together with great care and thought and it was obvious from the 'Extras' at the end that they all, without exception moulded together exceptionally.

Laurance Fishburne (Dr Larabee)and Angela Bassett (Akeelah's mother Tanya) have worked together before in Whats Love Got To Do With It and it is obvious that they had a wonderful rapport.

I am not going into any of the details of the story, simply to say that this film is more than well worth the effort to see and I feel sure very few, if any, will be disappointed.
The Vidiot Reviews...
Akeelah and the Bee

With Michelle Obama out of office, the only strong black woman African American girls have to look up to now is Madea.

Thankfully, the phenom in this drama became her on role model.

With a knack for spelling, but a bad attitude keeping her from getting proper instruction, Akeelah (Keke Palmer) struggles to make it through competition.

With no encouragement from her single mother (Angela Bassett), she takes it upon herself to study and seek out a coach (Laurence Fishburne) who can help get her to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Although it's a fictional account, this underdog tale is rooted in the short-lived spelling bee craze of the early-2000s. With Fine performances all-around, this feel-good film turns the sport on its ear by having an impoverished child compete in an affluent afterschool activity.

Best of all, the only equipment you need to compete is a pair of coke-bottle glasses.

Green Light
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