Friday night is 'movie night' at our house ... a time for the family to get together - usually after a hectic week of work, school, sports, etc. - over popcorn and a movie.
Just in time for tonight, Netflix delivered Akeelah and the Bee, the story of an eleven year-old who overcomes the challenges posed by her family, her school and her neighborhood to make a run down the road that leads ultimately to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Her travels down that road are helped by a wide array of characters ... including many from those same areas that had initially challenged her to succeed.
Keke Palmer, as Akeelah Anderson, does a wonderful job as a young girl with a gift, who finds herself discovering things about herself and those around her, even as she discovers new words. Palmer is joined by J.R. Villarreal and Sean Michael, who do much through their characters to illustrate the wide variety of kids who make their way onto the spelling bee stage.
Notable among the adults in the cast are Laurence Fishburne (who was also a producer of the film) as the professor who coaches Akeelah, and Angela Bassett who plays Akeelah's mom. Both contribute much to the main story as we learn, bit-by-sometimes-painful-bit, more about their own stories, and what they can offer to Akeelah.
Also notable on the cast (for me and other fans of My Name is Earl) is Eddie Steeples as Derrick-T, a gang-banger with a surprising amount of insight into Akeelah's dream, and a determination to help her realize that dream. He also has my boys' favorite line from the movie.
If you're wondering whether it's possible to make a compelling story out of a spelling bee ... well, yes, you can. Those of us who have been-there-done-that once upon a time, know you can ... and those of us with kids who are being-there-doing-that right now, REALLY know you can.
Good movie ... I recommend -- R-E-C-O-M-M-E-N-D -- recommend it.