Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Akeelah and the Bee"

I had my reservations about going to see "Akeelah and the Bee." Did we really need another spelling bee movie right on the tail of the award-winning documentary "Spellbound" and the mystic "Bee Season?" I'm not that into spelling. I couldn't even pronounce Akeelah, much less spell it. But I was totally won over by this heartwarming, family film. By the end, I could not only pronounce Akeelah, but I could spell it. Akeelah. Definition: Eleven year old girl from South Los Angeles who overcomes great personal trials to become a national spelling bee champion and an inspiration to her neighborhood. A-K-E-E-L-A-H.

Writer/Director Doug Atchison overcomes a somewhat formulaic plot through strong performances from his stellar cast including Angela Bassett (as Akeelah's mother) and Laurence Fishburne (as her coach.) But it was Kete Palmer's authentic performance as Akeelah that drew me into the story. By the end, I was whole-heartedly rooting for her -- not only for her courage and perseverance but for the kindness she shows in competition.

Her coach teaches her to overcome her fears and embrace her strengths and talents. He shares a quote from Marianne Williamson, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure....As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same." Akeelah holds onto this into the competition and becomes an inspiration to her neighborhood and all those who see this film.

While leaving the theatre, a father asked his nine year old daughter, "Think that helped your Scramble any?" The girl answered with an enthusiastic thank-you hug. Encourage all the girls in your life to let their light shine by bringing them to this uplifting film.

You can encourage Hollywood to make more inspiring, family films by attending "Akeelah and the Bee" while it is still in the first run theatres. If you love it as much as I did, pass this review onto your friends. Let's create a market for meaningful films!

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal