Akeelah and the Bee

Rated PG 112 minutes 2006

Doug Atchison's sweet-natured, immensely likable family film recasts the innate human drama of the spelling bee -- captured memorably in the 2002 documentary Spellbound -- in the familiar but satisfying terms of an after-school special. Keke Palmer plays a bright 11-year-old languishing in an underfunded, underequipped South Central L.A. public school; when her principal hits upon the PR strategy of entering a student in a bee competition, with the help of a Zen-like instructor (Laurence Fishburne in Morpheus mode), the girl accepts the challenge and ignites the hopes of her neighborhood. "Fantasy" may be the right word for a movie in which study alone overcomes all the savage inequalities of poverty, in which all bad people have some inner gold, in which circumstance ultimately favors the good at heart. But these are fantasies worth believing in, and because of Palmer, we do believe. If you can keep from biting your nails when Akeelah gets "argillaceous," or from tearing up at the resolution, you're made of sterner stuff than I.

Film Credits

Official Site: www.akeelahandthebee.com/splash.html

Director: Doug Atchison

Writer: Doug Atchison

Producer: Laurence Fishburne, Sidney Ganis, Nancy Hult, Daniel Llewelyn, Michael Romersa, Marc Butan, Mark Cuban, Michael Paseornek, Helen Sugland, Todd Wagner and Michael Johnson

Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Keke Palmer, Curtis Armstrong, Tzi Ma, Lee Young, Dalia Phillips, Craig Wasson, J.R. Villarreal, Sean Michael, Sara Niemietz, Eddie Steeples, Julito McCullum, Erica Hubbard and Sahara Garey

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Akeelah and the Bee

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