“Akeelah and the Bee”

A WALK DOWN NOSTALGIA LANE REVIEW: “Akeelah and the Bee” stars Keke Palmer (Nope., True Jackson VP [TV series]), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Apocalypse Now), Angela Bassett (Black Panther, Olympus Has Fallen), Curtis Armstrong (Risky Business, Better Off Dead), J.R. Villarreal (Spare Parts, High & Mighty [TV series]), Sean Michael Afable (The Scorpion King, Boogie Town), Erica Hubbard (A Cinderella Story, Fall Girls), Sahara Ware (Eleventh Hour [TV series], Model Minority), Lee Thompson Young (Friday Night Lights [2004], Rizzoli & Isles [TV series]), Julito McCullum (The Wire [TV series], God Bless You), Eddie Steeples (My Name is Earl [TV series], The Guest Book [TV series]), and Tzi Ma (Arrival, Mulan [2020]). It is written and directed by Doug Atchison (The Pornographer, Brian Banks).

A young girl (Palmer) in an inner-city school with an incredible ability to spell is selected to represent her school and compete for the national spelling bee.

In elementary school, there was a year where we were screened a film centered around a spelling bee. Was it for a specific purpose? Perhaps. We’ve had spelling bees every year. But at the time, I think the faculty truly wanted a good, wholesome feature to show the kiddos (and maybe fill in time so they don’t have to teach). Hence my first experience seeing “Akeelah and the Bee.”

This isn’t a movie I grew up on. Collectively, I saw it about two times as a kid. But it stuck with me since I first saw it, which prompted me to add it to this marathon. And at the end of the day, I’m so glad I put it on the roster.

“Akeelah and the Bee” is the kind of film you want your kids to watch. It’s heartwarming, thought-provoking, and endearing, teaching lessons on confidence, perseverance, and humanity that you don’t see often in modern family flicks (at least in the way they executed it). I was quite taken aback by it, as I expected a typical, mushy moral booster with surface-level dialogue and loads of montages. Instead, I received something genuine, and in a sea of loud, wild, lame kid movies, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Keke Palmer essentially broke out with this role, and man is she a natural. For being a kid actor, she does fantastically. You feel like she is actually gifted in spelling, and she manages to show the internal struggle she has through both her eyes and mannerisms. The talent surrounding her is also great, with the likes of Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett filling in the primary supporting roles. This is the first time I ever saw Fishburne in a movie. He was stern and menacing to me as a kid, and in watching it now I see how deep of a character he is. Sure, the connection he has with Akeelah is fairly typical, but it works. His performance sells it, and I found his scenes with Akeelah to be some of the best of the movie.

What struck me most by this story is how it was both written and directed… by a white man. Now, I never discuss matters of race on this site (unless the subject matter of the film calls for it); social politics are not my thing. However, it must be mentioned how Doug Atchison not only spearheaded a solid flick for families, but black families as well. I was led to believe that this movie was told by a black voice. The majority of the cast are African American, and some of the struggles surrounding them deal with specific upbringings. Obviously, Atchison was probably given some pointers/help (Fishburne himself helped produce this after all), but for the most part he told a universal story in such a specific way that was outside of himself. He said in a behind-the-scenes interview that he set out to tell a story that he could relate to, even though it was through the eyes of a young, black girl growing up in the inner-city. Mad props to the guy for accomplishing such a feat.

It’s clear to say that “Akeelah and the Bee” is a winner. The themes it expresses are great to impart to your kids, and the whole family can get together to enjoy it all the same. Of course, it has its moments of conjured mushiness (the scene where the street thugs get together to help Akeelah with her spelling is a bit too sappy haha), but overall it is an endearing, warm feature. One that I would certainly recommend. FINAL SCORE: 88%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““Akeelah and the Bee”

  1. Pingback: March Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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