Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

*Akeelah and the Bee* is one of the great sport movies of all time- except that it does not really a _sport_. The _sport_ is spelling, but the theme and plot are as old as rooting for the underdog.

Akeelah is an 11-year-old black girl from the wrong part of LA who spells to keep her mind of things in her life she would rather not think about- her absent father, her stressed mother, a sibling who seems to have one foot in the slammer and a school which lacks doors on the bathroom stalls.

So she spells. But being smart makes it hard to make friends and harder to fit in anywhere. Akeelah tries hard to not be smart, until the day of her school’s first spelling bee.

You know the drill- the girl is the underdog shooting for the ultimate prize (the national spelling bee in DC). Her only enemy is herself. Her coach- a brilliant Laurence Fishburne (also the producer)- fights his own demons to make her realize her own potential. And finally, she gets no support from the ones she cares about most- until the key moments when she needs it most.

We all know these moments well; trained as we are on _Hoosiers_, _Miracle_ and _Revenge of the Nerds_. And yet we keep watching them, because we enjoy the patterns- especially when they are done well.

And with Akeelah, it is done in spectacular fashion. It cleverly dodges cliches, while acknowledging them. It has performances from great actors in great roles. And, if only everyone could ignore the MPAAs asinine PG-13 rating, it is the right movie for 11-year-olds of every where. The kid, Akeelah, is played brilliantly by Keke Palmer; this girl is already a star. I can see her competing with Dakota Fanning in the much underserved niche of 11-year old superstars.

Go see this movie, however old you are; and take all the 11-ish kids you know. You will give them in two hours something no other two hour experience could provide.


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