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Running Time:
1 hour, 52 minutes

Rating: PG Parental Guidance Suggested.

Rating Explanation:
for some language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
A manipulative but winning charmer.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: Making of Akeelah and the Bee; Two Peas in a Pod; Inside the Mind of Akeelah; Keke Palmer "All My Girlz" music video; Gag reel; Deleted scenes; 16x9 widescreen version; 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital audio; English and Spanish subtitles.

Akeelah and the Bee
11-year-old Akeelah is a student at Crenshaw Middle School in south Los Angeles. The school barely has money for textbooks, but it does have a cuddly and passionate principal, Mr. Welch (Curtis Armstrong who played Ahmet Ertegun in "Ray"), who believes in the underlying potential of the kids. Particularly Akeelah who's treated like a nerd by most of her classmates, but they still try to get her to do their homework for them. She enjoys playing Scrabble and has become a fabulous speller as a result. Principal Welch convinces her to sign up to compete in Crenshaw’s first spelling bee.

Despite the taunts of some of the kids, she wins and gets the attention of Mr. Larrabee (Laurence Fishburne "The Matrix"), a UCLA professor who's an old friend of Welch’s as well as a former Spelling Bee contender. He agrees to coach Akeelah, over the objections of her hard-working, widowed mother (Angela Bassett "Waiting to Exhale") and Akeelah begins to feel she's found a place where she belongs, and where her talent is appreciated.

The film written and directed by Doug Atchison features all the predictable highs and lows of this kind of feel-good movie before it finally becomes a real high tension nail-biter. It also features some first-rate performances by Basset and Fishburne who bring both gravitas and their considerable acting abilities to roles that might otherwise be simply clichés. But it’s Keke Palmer ("Madea's Family Reunion") as Akeelah who holds it all together. She’s a believable, irresistible kid with a genuine sense of the kinds of insecurities that beset most pre-teens, and she ably demonstrates both tenaciousness and an overwhelming capacity for joy. Her conversations with the picture of her dead father that she keeps over her desk, are particularly moving. And during the national competition, when the camera roams through the living rooms of Akeelah's cheering neighbors, you'll feel their excitement along with your own. This charming movie is a positive, gentle, and ultimately uplifting litttle gem.

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