Now, I was worried when I put on Akeelah and the Bee and I saw previews for Arthur’s Missing Pal and other bad kids movies. But five minutes in, I was hooked.
Akeelah Anderson is an 11-year-old “girl from the hood” who took up spelling after her father was killed. She’s got a “mind like a sponge” and can spell just about anything after seeing it once. But she lives in a bad part of town, has an overworked mom who has to deal with four kids, one who is getting involved with gangs, and is subject to the typical “smart-but-poor kid rises up” scenario. The plot seems pretty rote and run of the mill and the movie predictor person inside of me is just waiting for something bad to happen, like the death of her brother who is getting mixed up in gangs. It seems to follow what they have set up. From her second loss and her family’s pain, little Akeelah will be able to rise up and overcome all of the stereotypes of the ‘hood and win the spelling bee.
But that’s not what happens. It’s something much more inspirational. Instead of her brother getting shot up in a drive by, he’s forced to help his sister study by the local “gang boss”. Her mom suddenly has time and she (and the whole neighborhood, even the grocer and the friendly homeless guy) rally around her to help Akeelah learn 5,000 words to prepare for nationals. She learns them in record time, and then her coach, who ditched her after an inability to cope with his own familial hardships, sucks it up, and comes through for Akeelah too. They all fly to DC and she wins the spelling bee – actually it’s a tie between her and Dylan, a two-time second place champion who has a “you-win-first-place-or-you-are-disowned” father. (The father ends up being proud of his son.)
It was magical. Finally a movie about a seemingly down-and-out kid who makes it despite the odds, but doesn’t have to have the whole kitchen sink thrown at her. I mean, isn’t living in a bad part of town and having only one parent enough? Does an 11 year really need to overcome MORE adversity? I like that Akeelah wins because she is no longer afraid to win – and that’s it.
There’s a quote in the movie that when I heard, my mouth dropped agape. It was the quote by Marianne Williamson that I used in one of my blogs:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
Bottom Line: Movies that make you feel good without running your mascara are awesome.