Akeelah and the Bee

  • Film
  • Drama
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Americans adore the agony and ecstasy of high-stakes spelling showdowns, or so it would seem from the features ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Bee Season’, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’, and the prime-time television debut of the national spelling bee championship this past June. For their first film production, Starbucks plays it safe and sound, keeping close to home with gently inspirational family material while capitalising on the apparent national enthusiasm for all things orthographic.Akeelah (the captivating Keke Parker) is a smart girl at a rough school in South Central LA, and she tries to keep her big brain a secret from bullies even while she works her way toward the national finals. It’s a journey that the movie captures in unabashedly formulaic terms: Akeelah gets various ethnically diverse arch rivals (replete with dictatorial fathers), a tough-cookie mum (Angela Bassett in her patented icy, irritable mode), and of course, a stuffy tutor (Laurence Fishburne, who once played Ike to Bassett’s Tina) – in this case, a tweedy UCLA English professor who, as is required in all movies of this nature, becomes the youngster’s unlikely coach and in so doing begins to heal his own psychic wounds. A warm bath of uplift scented with an honourable message, ‘Akeelah and the Bee’ is essentially a likeable, low-key after-school special thrown up on to the big screen, where its clichés seem bigger and its characterisations broader than they would on the more forgiving telly

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday August 18 2006
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Doug Atchison
Screenwriter: Doug Atchison
Cast: Keke Palmer
Dalia Phillips
Laurence Fishburne
J R Villarreal
Angela Bassett
Erica Hubbard
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