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Akeelah and the Bee


Stars: Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett

Director: Doug Atchison

It's Bee Season again - spelling, that is (and not the witchery kind). This time the leading character is an 11-year-old black girl, Akeelah (Palmer) from the Southside of Los Angeles. Why are the 'heroes' of such films always girls? Unfair to boys!

At any rate, Akeelah is a devastating speller who drums her sides as she concentrates. The brains come from Mom (Bassett), a university dropout, who sees Akeelah reluctantly enter her school bee and win with consummate ease.

When she scrapes into the state bee by coming 10th (and final qualifier) in the regional competition, a reclusive professor (Fishburne) decides she needs some intensive coaching, examining the origins of words as well as spelling them.

Nicely made, the film does get very naive towards the end, but, if you take it on its own best-of-all worlds terms (even the ghetto crooks help Akeelah with her practice), it's tremendously enjoyable. And Palmer simply couldn't be bettered. It's such a winning performance that she has you on her side throughout.

David Quinlan

USA 2005. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 15 Aug 2006