Akeelah and the Bee
Anyone who managed to see 2002's documentary Spellbound knows that the American National Spelling Bee is more than just a bunch of braniacs standing on a stage belting out words noone has ever heard of. It's a dog-eat-dog contest where winning is everything, and no one remembers the losers. Akeelah And The Bee attempts to dramatise these events and director Doug Atchison manages to make a film that's hard not to like. Even though project girl Akeelah Anderson (Palmer) misses more classes than she attends, her teachers and school principal (Curtis Armstrong) recognise a talent for spelling, and enter her in a school bee - the first rung on a long ladder to the national finals. Impressed, former English professor Dr. Larabee (Fishburne) takes Akeelah under his wing and coaches her, much to the chagrin of struggling parent Tanya (Basset).Can Akeelah go all the way or will her lack of confidence hold her back? Finding Forrester Again could have been this film's alternative title, as almost every scene reminds you of something you've seen before (add Karate Kid, Good Will Hunting etc).There is nothing fresh or original here, but writer/director Atchison injects sufficient warmth into the film, so it's easy not to get po-faced. He also adds a touch of Disney to the spectacle (the neighbourhood gangster and Akeelah's bad-boy brother all get behind her; although the kids are initially in competition with each other, they soon rally around) and all obstacles are overcome a little too easily. On the plus side, it drags the viewer in and makes you a participant, as you can't help but attempt to spell the words the kids are faced with, looking around with a smug smile when you get it right and sliding deeper into your chair when you get it wrong. Akeelah And The Bee teaches you a new word every five minutes and that can't be bad thing, can it?
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