Akeelah and the Bee

April 28th, 2006


Akeelah and the Bee

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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

Director: 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 - Akeelah
Laurence Fishburne - Dr. Larabee
Angela Bassett - Tanya
Curtis Armstrong - Mr. Welch
J.R. Villarreal - Javier (as JR Villarreal)
Sean Michael Afable - Dylan
Sahara Garey - Georgia
Lee Thompson Young - Devon
Julito McCullum - Terrence
Erica Hubbard - Kiana
Eddie Steeples - Derrick-T
Dalia Phillips - Ms. Cross
Tzi Ma - Mr. Chiu
Jeris Poindexter - Steve (as Jeris Lee Poindexter)
Sara Niemietz - Polly

Taglines: 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 (USA) (30 April 2006) (2195 Screens)

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

Technical Specs

Runtime: USA:  | Argentina:

Did You Know?

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

Continuity: 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]
Akeelah: 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-)


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