I said that I would hit you off with a good Black movie to commemorate Black History Month so here you have it. Yes, I realize that we are now just a few days away from the month being over so I am a tad late. That meant that I would have to find a doozy to make up for the oversight on my part. Unfortunately, I've already spoken on most of the heavy hitters that were some of my all-time favorites. Although this one may not be on the starting squad, it's one heck of back-up.
Sometimes, a movie comes along where in and of itself, it would appear there is nothing really special about it. It would seem the plot would just be average, if not trite, and nothing about it really stands out. Then you watch it and your viewpoint has changed altogether. That's how I was with "Akeelah and the Bee". I even had it in my personal collection for weeks without watching it before finally convinced by Mom and Dad that it was more than worthy of a viewing.
Even if you haven't seen this particular movie, you have seen this story a thousand times. The thing that's different is they use spelling instead of a common sports theme to highlight competition. All of the familiar roles are there...the underdog trying to overcome odds to win, the mentor with his own troubled past that helps, the nemesis who later becomes a friend...yada, yada, yada...
But this one was moving to me because of the way Akeelah's (Keke Palmer) involvement in the Bee serves as a catalyst for helping her family problems, the community problems and even her school's problems. It wasn't even her intention to be everyone's savior yet inadvertently, she steps into the role and becomes the voice of thousands of people.
Laurence Fishburne is right on point as the mentor. He should be after movie after movie of playing that same role. Angela Bassett is almost a bit overbearing as the mother. And I wish her trainer would scale back a bit and stop having her look like a female weightlifter. But it's Palmer as Akeelah that really makes this joint shine. Who would have known she had it in her from that small role in "Madea's Family Reunion"?
"Akeelah and the Bee" was first released around the same time I first spoke of the national spelling bee. Even then it was under-appreciated in theaters. I made the mistake of waiting until its dvd release to find out what a great film it truly was. If you still haven't seen it, don't you go on making the same mistake as well.