Akeelah is a typical middle school girl growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood. The principal of her school notices her affinity for spelling and encourages her to enter the school spelling bee. Although worried that the kids will think she’s a “freak or brainiac,” Akeelah goes on to win and then begins to train for the next level eventually leading up to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Of course this movie is about much more than a spelling bee. As we watch her study and advance in the competition, we see her personal and family struggles. Inequity in education, racism, and teenage delinquency are all subplots that could have taken over the story, but instead serve to enhance our understanding of Akeelah’s struggles. Through it all her spelling coach issues wise words and leads Akeelah to believe in herself and become the best she can be.
The cast of this film is excellent and features Angela Bassett as Akeelah’s overworked, widowed mother. Lawrence Fishburne does a fantastic job playing her somewhat pompous but loveable spelling coach. And KeKe Palmer is outstanding as Akeelah. I don’t think there has been another major motion picture featuring an African American girl in the leading role. KeKe deserves the honor as she plays this role to perfection. I want to commend the filmmakers for making this a family-friendly film in all areas. Although there are a few offensive words, they are minor. This movie is a great example that you don’t need to fill a movie with a bunch of foul language, sexual references and potty humor to make it worthwhile. On the contrary, a movie like that fills you up with junk but leaves you feeling empty. “Akeelah and the Bee” fills the viewer with a story of a young girl’s determination, hope for the future of our children and the importance of love and support from friends and family. This viewer left the theater fully satisfied and smiling!