Akeelah and the Bee Parent Guide
This heart-warming movie about an under-privileged character discovering her inner potential rises above cliches.
Parent Movie Review
Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) has an unusual gift. Despite skipping classes and neglecting homework, she has an incredible ability to spell words. Encouraged by her teacher (Dalia Phillips) and arm-twisted by her principal (Curtis Armstrong), the eleven-year-old enters and wins her East Los Angeles school’s first spelling bee. Not only does that qualify her for an opportunity to participate in a citywide competition and possibly earn a spot at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, it also attracts the attention of Dr. Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne).
A former university professor well acquainted with the spelling bee circuit, Dr. Larabee agrees to coach the young protege on two conditions; she must stick to a strict schedule and adjust her attitude.
But Akeelah isn’t sure she wants to accept his offer. Already teased by her peers for being a “brainiac,” the African-American girl feels out of her league in an arena filled with wealthy and predominately white kids. As well, she has no support from home where her widowed mother (Angela Bassett) is overwhelmed by a fulltime job of making ends meet and dealing with wayward family members. However, when the choice comes down to training or attending summer school, Akeelah realizes she has been bitten by the competitive bug and decides to forge her mom’s signature on the required permission form.
While a heart-warming movie about an under-privileged character discovering her inner potential and going on to great achievements may sound cliched this script contains some original elements. These are especially evident in the way the film depicts the competitors. Instead being cast as ruthless enemies, the various participants develop friendship and empathy for one another. For instance, when Akeelah nervously attends her first real meet (her fears are creatively conveyed by clever camera work), her anxiety is set to rest by a kind gesture from a boy named Javier (J.R. Villarreal). And although the most promising candidate, Dylan Chiu (Sean Michael), seems determined to win at any cost, deeper motivations and ethics are revealed as the story unfolds.
As expected, Akeelah transforms from a shrinking violet into a cool-as-a-cucumber contestant under the tutelage of the professor. Yet she learns more than just memorization techniques from the brilliant educator who opens her eyes to the building blocks of language and how words can be used to shape the world. Along the way he helps her catch a vision of who she can become and teaches her that even those with talent still have to work hard if they want to succeed.
With the exception of a few content concerns (namely some mild to moderate profanities scattered throughout the dialogue, allusions to the harsher realities of life in a rough neighborhood and the struggles of a single parent family), Akeelah and the Bee overflows with positive messages. As this underdog acquires the confidence to become her best self, comes to terms with the things she doesn’t have, and gains an appreciation for the things she does have, she also discovers she has a lot to give to those around her. Her example may spell similar successes within young viewers who see this wonderful movie.Directed by Doug Atchison. Starring Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett. Running time: 112 minutes. Theatrical release April 27, 2006. Updated May 21, 2020
Watch the trailer for Akeelah and the Bee
Akeelah and the Bee
Rating & Content Info
Why is Akeelah and the Bee rated PG? Akeelah and the Bee is rated PG by the MPAA for some language
In this heartwarming story about reaching your potential, the character of Akeelah is faced with many obstacles including grief from the loss of a parent, living with financial constraints, a lack of desire to work hard and some bullies at school. Set in an underprivileged neighborhood, the script includes mentions of problems with gangs and violent crimes, unwed mothers, and one moderate as well as a few mild profanities are used. Akeelah decides to lie to her mother, but later faces some consequences for her choice. A sorrowing character is seen drinking what may be an alcoholic beverage, while another is shown smoking. A young boy and girl exchange brief kisses, and an adult character wears some low-cut clothes. The pressure and expectations of participation in a spelling competition are depicted.
Page last updated May 21, 2020
Akeelah and the Bee Parents' Guide
How do you feel about the quote Dr. Larabee shared with Akeelah that states: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” What do you think the professor was hoping Akeelah would learn from this piece of wisdom? Did this insight help the young girl unlock the potential within her? As she begins to work hard, how does her success affect herself, her family, her community and her teachers?
How did Javier feel about participating in the spelling bee? What were Dylan’s motivations? How did their attitudes affect Akeelah? Does the spirit of competition always need to be about one winner and many losers? What did Dylan teach Akeelah about finding the satisfaction of coming in first?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Ever wondered about the real life spelling bee champions? Anthropologist Shalini Shankar did and her research has resulted in Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z’s New Path to Success.
For an inside look at the competitions, you can read James Maguire’s American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds; The Lives of Five Top Spellers as They Compete for Glory and Fame.
If spelling drives you crazy and you want to master the skill, try How to Spell Like a Champ. Written by Barrie Trinkle, Paige Kimble, and Carolyn Andrews, this book gives you basic rules, exceptions, and the most commonly misspelled types of words.
The most recent home video release of Akeelah and the Bee movie is August 28, 2006. Here are some details…
Inspire all aspiring students with the DVD release of Akeelah and the Bee. This almost letter-perfect movie comes to the home video market with deleted scenes, a gag reel, and Keke Palmer0x2019s All My Girlz music video. As well, there are three featurettes: The Making of Akeelah and the Bee, Doug & Keke: Two Peas In a Pod, and Inside the Mind of Akeelah. Audio tracks are available in English (Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital), with subtitles in English and Spanish.
Related home video titles:
Chess, not spelling, is the way out of poverty for a young woman in Uganda. Queen of Katwe tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, who catapulted from the slums of Kampala to the world of international chess competitions.
A father becomes heavily involved in his daughter’s quest to become a champion speller in Bee Season.
In the movie Stand and Deliver (which is based on a true story), students in an East LA neighborhood are motivated to unlock their potential when a new teacher challenges them. Freedom Writers is another true story of an inspiring teacher who becomes a catalyst for change in a school where students are trapped by poverty and gangs.