Akeelah and the Bee

April 28, 2006 0 By Fans
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Still of Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the BeeStill of Tzi Ma and Sean Michael Afable in Akeelah and the BeeBrittany Curran at event of Akeelah and the BeeStill of Laurence Fishburne in Akeelah and the BeeStill of Angela Bassett and Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the BeeStill of Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Curtis Armstrong and Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee


A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7.5/10 (9,594 voted)

Critic's Score: 72/100

Doug Atchison

Stars: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer

Eleven year-old Akeelah Anderson's life is not easy: her father is dead, her mom ignores her, her brother runs with the local gangbangers. She's smart, but her environment threatens to strangle her aspirations. Responding to a threat by her school's principal, Akeelah participates in a spelling bee to avoid detention for her many absences. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she wins. Her principal asks her to seek coaching from an English professor named Dr. Larabee for the more prestigious regional bee. As the possibility of making it all the way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee looms, Akeelah could provide her community with someone to rally around and be proud of — but only if she can overcome her insecurities and her distracting home life. She also must get past Dr. Larabee's demons, and a field of more experienced and privileged fellow spellers.


Keke Palmer


Laurence Fishburne

Dr. Larabee

Angela Bassett


Curtis Armstrong

Mr. Welch

J.R. Villarreal


(as JR Villarreal)

Sean Michael Afable


Sahara Garey


Lee Thompson Young


Julito McCullum


Erica Hubbard


Eddie Steeples


Dalia Phillips

Ms. Cross

Tzi Ma

Mr. Chiu

Jeris Poindexter


(as Jeris Lee Poindexter)

Sara Niemietz


Changing the world… one word at a time.


Official Website:
Lions Gate Films [United States] |

Release Date: 28 April 2006

Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA

Opening Weekend: $6,011,585
(30 April 2006)
(2195 Screens)

Gross: $18,811,135
(16 July 2006)

Technical Specs



Did You Know?


Filmed in 31 days with a budget of $6 million.


During Akeelah's flight to Washington DC for the national competition, Javier is feeling airsick and Akeelah pins a pair of airman's wings to his vest so that he feels better, but she does does not pin it horizontally. After a few seconds, the wings are pinned perfectly straight.


[last lines]

You know that feeling where everything feels right? Where you don't have to worry about tomorrow or yesterday, where you feel safe and know you're doing the best you can? There's a word for that, it's called love. L-O-V-E.

User Review


Rating: 8/10

The world of competitive spelling bees has always been a hard subject
to dramatize. It is undoubtedly a fascinating subject to behold, one
which requires large amounts of both intelligence and strategy. But the
fact of the matter is that audiences aren't drawn to them. Most would
rather venture out to see an inspirational football drama rather than
watch children spell for two hours. This is why the subject has been so
rarely covered in film. Two recent examples, the documentary Spellbound
and the drama Bee Season, have tried to connect with the average viewer
– both receiving mediocre box office returns. Hopefully this trend will
cease with the release of Akeelah And The Bee, written and directed by
newcomer Doug Atchison. This tale of a young girl winning against all
odds is one of the year's biggest gems – a heartfelt and moving film
about the champion in us all.

The story follows young Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), a shy 11-year
old seventh grader who people think of as undeniably average. Her
mother Tanya (Angela Bassett) barely notices she is there, her
classmates dislike her and her teachers find her incredibly
unambitious. She is only able to find solace with her caring older
brother Devon (Lee Thompson Young) and best friend Georgia (Sahara
Garey). But everything changes one fateful day when Akeelah
unexpectedly wins her school's spelling bee. Located in a rough
neighborhood in South Los Angeles, her principal (Curtis Armstrong)
sees this as an opportunity for some positive publicity for the
struggling school. Because of this, he enlists the help of famed
teacher Dr. Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne) to help Akeelah with
her studies.

At first Akeelah is stubborn, lacking the motivation to work hard
enough to move to the next level. But as the months pass, her bond with
Larabee grows along with her ambition. As she moves through the
regionals and then the state bee – she soon finds herself heading to
Washington, D.C. to compete in the national spelling bee. With her
entire neighborhood behind her, Akeelah must decide if she has what it
takes to win.

This film has received much advanced publicity for some of its
credentials. It is the first film to be co-distributed by Starbucks
Entertainment, a new division of the famed coffeehouse. It is also
well-known because Atchison received the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship
to put this film in production. This award, given by the AMPAS, is
presented to new screenwriters who display much promise. Upon seeing
the film, it is evident why Atchison received this award. Akeelah And
The Bee greatly benefits from the excellent script, which takes careful
time to develop the characters – allowing you to become very attached
to them by the end of the film. It also shows the true intensity of the
actual competition, including a nail-biting final act as intense as any
sports film. Atchison also succeeds in terms of direction, using many
interesting shots throughout the running time. The film moves at a fast
pace but never feels rushed – keeping the audience completely engrossed
in the story.

The cast on display here is made up of talented veterans and promising
new talent. Laurence Fishburne is great as Larabee, delivering one of
his finest performances to date. His character has many layers to his
persona, first appearing aloof and haughty but later revealing himself
as a caring and sympathetic man with a dark past. Fishburne dives into
this role and makes the character completely believable. Angela Bassett
is also strong here as Tanya, and tackles each scene with charisma and
strength. But the real heart and soul of the picture, and the reason
that it is such a success, is Keke Palmer's breakout performance. The
multi-layered performance is sure to be one of the year's best – and it
is easily the strongest performance by a child actor since Haley Joel
Osment's famed turn in The Sixth Sense. She fills the role with lots of
energy, but also displays strong dramatic chops and excels in her
dramatic scenes – creating a lovable and completely adorable character.
Anyone who doesn't fall in love with Palmer as Akeelah must have a
heart of stone.

Overall, this is easily the best family film of the year so far and one
of the strongest inspirational tales in years. While it may have some
unavoidable clichés, Akeelah And The Bee succeeds due to a strong
script and excellent performances, especially from standout Keke
Palmer. There's only one word that comes to mind when summing up this
film as a whole: G-r-e-a-t! 8/10 (A-)