Director: Doug Achison
Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett,
RunTime: 1 hr 53 mins
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.akeelahandthebee.com/splash.html
Opening Day: 31 August 2006
An inspirational drama, AKEELAH AND THE BEE is the story of
Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), a precocious eleven-year-old
girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite
the objections of her mother Tanya (Angela Bassett), Akeelah
enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored
by the forthright Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne); her principal
Mr. Welch (Curtis Armstrong) and the proud residents of her
neighborhood. Akeelah’s aptitude earns her an opportunity
to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee
and in turn unites her neighborhood who witness the courage
and inspiration of one amazing little girl.
If you are not a fan of spelling tests back in primary school,
then you probably won’t be too excited about this movie.
Now, you must know that the National Spelling Bee is this
really big event in the States, where kids from all around
the country gather to, well, spell words you and I have possibly
never heard of. In case you didn’t know, it is even
broadcast on sports cable channel EPSN.
that we have one national phenomenon in place for a dramatic
plot, let’s throw in another dimension for an uplifting
and inspirational full-length feature. What can be more elevating
and rousing than having a young and insecure African American
girl overcoming all odds to win the coveted championship title?
Almost nothing, if you ask us. These are the perfect ingredients
for a crowd-pleaser.
the plot of this movie would be easy – because you’d
know what the outcomes are before we tell you. Akeelah isn’t
exactly the most fortunate 11-year-old you’d know. With
a deceased father, a mother who pays more attention to her
work and a brother who has gangster friends, it is no wonder
she feels self-doubt most of the time.
the world is fair, because Akeelah is blessed with the gift
of spelling, and boy, does she amaze everyone with her talent.
Before she knows it, she is being coached by a professional
trainer, and on her way to fame and success. Of course, like
all feel-good movies, support and love would surface from
family and friends.
not be mistaken that we dislike the predictability of this
movie directed by Doug Atchinson and produced by Laurence
Fishburne. In fact, the second most enjoyable aspect of this
movie is being able to guess correctly what would happen next.
The most pleasurable moments of this film are, of course,
the very fine performances from its entire cast.
Fishburne isn’t busy playing Morpheus and spouting philosophical
lines to Keana Reeves in The Matrix series, he is occupied
with his stimulating role as the former professor who trains
Akeelah. Heck, the script even requires him to read one intelligent-sounding
voiceover passage about facing your fears. How very truth-seeking
indeed. At least Fishburne doesn’t need look ridiculously
silly here. In fact, a scene of him confiding in Akeelah about
his past tugged our heartstrings so much; we thought we felt
water in our eyes.
And the excellent performance not only comes from this veteran
actor. At the other end of the age scale, we have KeKe Palmer,
who is so empathic as Akeelah, you feel like rooting and cheering
for her out loud every time she spells a word correctly. Angela
Bassett, who plays Akeelah’s mother, exudes some very
positive vibes as well. Then there are other secondary characters
like Akeelah’s best friend, her brother, and her competitors,
who all give top notch performances. No complaints about the
movie also looks at topics like family love, sportsmanship
and friendship. But as mentioned before, the movie is so predictable;
you’d know exactly how these themes are going to be
developed. Yes, this is true, right down to the portrayal
of minority communities, which we will not go into, fearing
our lack of academic backups and research into this area.
The exchange between FIshburne and Palmer about “ghetto
talk” is a gem though, and it tickled us quite a bit,
if you do not consider that to be culturally insensitive.
the movie is this predictable, the 112-minute runtime of the
film may be a drag to some. The length sets in when you are
not being entertained by the fumbling kids during scenes featuring
the actual spelling bee competition. It is truly a wonder
watching them in action.
such a lengthy movie, these segments may not be enough to
entertain some of you out there. So here’s a tidbit
to think about and entertain yourself during the slower scenes:
The longest word currently listed in Oxford dictionaries is
pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis (the supposed
lung-disease consists of 45 letters). Now try spelling that.
warm and fuzzy sure-win crowd-pleaser which may feel lengthy
at times, this movie will still satisfy anyone who wants to
have a feel-good day)
by John Li