Akeelah and the Bee

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Akeelah and the Bee ★★½ 2006 (PG)

Inspirational story focuses on 11-year-old Akeelah (Palmer), a vocabulary whiz (thanks to her late father's Scrabble prowess) who doesn't want to be humiliated as a brainiac at her tough South Central L.A. school. But after a couple of spelling bee wins, and the coaching of no-nonsense UCLA English professor Larabee (Fishburne), Akeelah is encouraged to dream big and head for the National Spelling Bee. Bassett plays her overworked widow mom, who has too many other worries to help her daughter (at least at first). Palmer's character is both sweet and determined although the film may seem overly familiar. 107m/C DVD . US Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Keke Palmer, Curtis Armstrong, Tzi Ma, Lee Thompson Young, Sahara Garey, J.R. Villarreal, Sean Michael Afable; D: Doug Atchison; W: Doug Atchison; C: M. David Mullen; M: Aaron Zigman.