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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.39%
Worth A Look: 33.33%
Pretty Bad: 1.45%
Total Crap: 1.45%

8 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Akeelah and the Bee
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Dry Spell"
3 stars

If you have at least one working eye, as well as an age and IQ in the double digits, then youíve seen 'Akeelah and the Bee' before. Its entire running time is devoid of a single creative element or original idea, instead opting to coast by on sheer gumption and an eternally optimistic spirit that is all too familiar. However, one can endure it, thanks to the best efforts of its little leading lady, and in all honesty, it could have been worse. At least the last word isnít origami (you thought I forgot about that, 'Bee Season,' didnít ya?).

Eleven-year-old Akeelah (Keke Palmer) feels shunned at school, since all the teachers point her out for doing so well (she skipped the second grade) and all her peers mock her for the very same reasons. As such, she is reluctant to compete in the inaugural spelling bee until the principal (Curtis Armstrong), smelling an opportunity to improve the schoolís image and receive more funding, practically blackmails her into participating with her rather poor attendance record. Her performance impresses Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), a colleague of the principal and former champion who decides to coach Akeelah for the competitions to come, where she makes friends with the genial Javier (J.R. Villarreal) and enemies with Dylan (Sean Michael), an arrogant rival strictly trained by his stern father, no less. I donít have to tell you twice who takes the top three spots at the regional level and proceed to face off nationally in Washington, DC, and if you have the slightest of doubts, this movie might very well be the best thing youíve seen since last nightís programming on the Hallmark Channel.

Writer/director Doug Atchison nails every single clichť in the overcoming-obstacles handbook, going from Akeelah studying amongst the sounds of family bickering and police choppers, to deciding to do the bee for her deceased daddy, to defying her callous mother (Angela Bassett) when she fails to see the point in all this spelling stuff, and so on and so forth all the way to the national championships. There are a few obligatory m-o-n-t-a-g-e-s, especially when the whole neighborhood decides to rally behind her, although the prospect of gangbangers helping young Akeelah study upon the hood of their Escalades leaves me slightly skeptical. Atchison only adds to the ick by ensuring that each character is a minority (Akeelah - black, Javier - Hispanic, Dylan - Asian), a factor which falls flat because he makes the racial factor seem incredibly obligatory. Oh, and all white kids are rich, snobby, and EVIL!, which just gives the bland proceedings all the flavor of dollar-store diet vanilla yogurt.

It is nice to see Fishburne in a mentor role for a change, although his dead daughter subplot becomes mildly overwrought very quickly, as the overall tone of the second act becomes especially heavy-handed, especially thanks to Bassett in the thankless role of official button pusher. The other kids are simply adequate as their flat characters, but the movie is only made watchable by the efforts of Palmer, who easily surpasses her previous work (well, anything has to be better than Madeaís Family Reunion) and carries the film by naturally expressing the concerns and doubts of a girl in her position, as unoriginal as the role itself may be. Her effort to elevate such a drab character is the sole reason one can stomach Akeelah, although it just isnít quite enough to merit a whole-hearted recommendation.

If you want to see a better film, go rent the documentary 'Spellbound.' If you really want to do worse, 'Bee Season' might be more to your liking. Otherwise, 'Akeelah and the Bee' is simply a pedestrian production throughout that offers little reason to trouble yourself with it. After all, as long as Gwen Stefani can spell "bananas," I guess there is hope for anyone.

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originally posted: 05/12/06 05:17:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/02/11 Mary It is so awesome..everybody should watch this... 5 stars
10/08/07 lily wow i loved it i seriosly did it was great well done 5 stars
9/14/07 Tracy Great movie, great actors 5 stars
8/16/07 chosha I'm with Staci. You missed the point, and some excellent themes, well-rendered. 5 stars
4/29/07 David Pollastrini pretty dull 3 stars
4/14/07 Hugh jass It was total crap 1 stars
11/06/06 anitamich Is there a more perfect movie than this one? I don't think so! 5 stars
10/21/06 Tanya Grays wonderful, for all ages 5 stars
10/16/06 Jim Morpheus gives Akeelah the red pill and she wakes up in Washington DC 4 stars
9/25/06 Lisa Craven Loved seeing Fisbourne and Bassett together again. Keke is a rising star, too. 4 stars
6/12/06 Heather Laurence Fishburne is amazing, great movie 5 stars
6/10/06 Ally Wow! I've never been more proud to be a Spelling Bee champion in my life! Empowering! 5 stars
5/24/06 Cindy Formula plot but with a nice twist at the end. Good for an underdog takes all pix. 3 stars
5/19/06 Staci Goss doesn't get it. This movie is NEEDED for the Black community. My girls and I loved it! 5 stars
5/16/06 Julie J LOVED IT!! What a feel good movie 5 stars
5/14/06 K. Pearlman Sorry , this one does not tappeal -reality is closer than it appears.... 2 stars
5/13/06 millersxing Inspires folks to overcome social pressures and dream big. 4 stars
5/08/06 Victoria Akeelah and the Bee was great and i think that everyone should see it. 5 stars
5/07/06 Mase If you can't stomach watching a far supieror documentary "spellbound", this will do. 4 stars
4/23/06 D T Hutchinson Awesome, awesome, film. This is the best feel good movies thus far this year. 5 stars
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  28-Apr-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



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