In honor of last Friday's Scripps Spelling Bee finals, I bring you:
Akeelah is an eleven year old girl who goes to a pretty rough school in LA. She's secretly smart so her teacher gives her a flyer to compete in the school spelling bee.
Her neighborhood is rough. There are drunk guys asking her for change. That's Akeelah's best friend in the middle, she's awesome.
Angela Basset plays Akeelah's mom, she just got home from the gun show.
(Do you think she introduces herself like this: "Hi, I'm Angela and I'm fucking amazing.")
What's this? Akeelah sees the National Spelling Bee on ESPN (for all of those questioning the inclusion of Akeelah and the Bee on this list---it's on ESPN!)
Akeelah's life is rough. Her dad was shot to death several years earlier. Her mom works a lot. She likes to study, but she gets picked on for being smart. These girls are getting ready to beat her up if she doesn't do their homework.
Somehow the principal convinces Akeelah to participate in the spelling bee, I think it's because she skips class a lot and he's all "we'll sweep that under the rug if you do this."
Akeelah has a pretty brother who's in the Air Force. He tells Akeelah that if she makes it to the National Spelling Bee, he'll go see her compete.
Akeelah has another brother who is NO GOOD. He tells Akeelah that she's going to lose and look stupid doing it.
Laurence Fishburne is like a spelling bee Yoda and he says he'll coach Akeelah for free. But she has a lot of attitude so they're mutually like, "have a nice life" and they part ways.
Commence training montage!
I love when movies show the rag-tag bunch of individuals overwhelmed by the big competition. See: Karate Kid.
This is Dylan, he's the biggest competition. Everyone thinks he's going to win and they're probably right. He's won regionals the last three years and he's come in second at the National Spelling Bee the last two years. This is his last year of eligibility and he's fixin' to win it all.
At the regional bee, Akeelah meets Javier. Javier is amazing. He's funny and nice and he gives Akeelah some tips on how to avoid getting tricked by some words.
Larry goes to the bee to see how Akeelah's doing.
She's not doing to good. She got a word wrong and there's only one speller left. If the other guy gets the word right, he's going to sectionals(?). It's really hard to keep track of all the bees. If he gets the word wrong, Akeelah has another chance to spell a word.
In the middle of the word, he's all, uhhhhhh........
And his mom whispers the letters from the audience! And he gets the word right! But Akeelah's sister saw them cheat! And she was all "They Cheated!" and the mom was all "He knew the word!" But the kid was a stand up guy and was all "No, I didn't." So Akeelah gets the last spot to go to sectionals! (or whatever!) Crazy (eyes)!
But Akeelah's mom thinks all these spelling bees are distracting Akeelah from her real schoolwork so she tells Akeelah she can't do spelling bees until next year. So Akeelah does what any kid does and forges her dead father's signature. (If only my mom knew how many times I wrote her signature on sick notes.)
Akeelah, re-focused, goes back to Larry and asks him to coach her. She's worked out a deal at school so she can study for the spelling bee instead of going to summer school. Who needs math?! Or science?! or any other school subject covered in 7th grade?! There are words to be spelled!!!
Geekiest training montage ever.
In the middle of the training montage, Larry discovers that Akeelah keeps rhythm as she spells (by tapping her leg). In order to help her focus and get rid of all her distraction, he gives her a jump rope to spell to the rhythm of jumping and thereby focusing her mind on the word.
And then there's a jump rope spelling training montage!!!! Fantastic!!!
Oh dip, Akeelah's mom finds out she's at the spelling bee and pulls her from the stage to confront her about all of her lies.
This is the best part of the movie and I can't capture it in pictures so you have to rent it or something, but when Akeelah goes to get yelled at by her mom, the judges say that she's still in the competition if she's back on stage before her next turn. Knowing that Akeelah will go immediately after him, Javier totally stalls while Akeelah is outside and it's wonderful and Javier is the best.
It works! Akeelah's mom finds out how many people have invested time and energy into Akeelah's training and tells her she can compete! And Akeelah gets third! She's going to NATIONALS!!!!
Akeelah gets kind of famous.
Which causes trouble in her life. She reminds Larry Fishburne of his dead daughter and he told her he couldn't coach her anymore. Plus Akeelah's awesome best friend told her she didn't want to be friends anymore because Akeelah had been hanging out with her rich spelling bee friends and being on TV and all so she was kind of ignoring her awesome friend.
Akeelah's mom goes to Larry to try to convince him to coach her again, but the hurt is too much and he can't. He misses his kid and it's sad. He tells her mom that Akeelah has 50000 coaches willing to help her study for the bee.
But her jerk brother disagrees and continues to make fun of her.
Until the neighborhood bad guy (whom Akeelah's brother has been hanging out with=bad news) pulls up and tells Akeelah that he's really happy for her going to the spelling bee. He tells Akeelah's brother to help her study. I think he realizes that the kid has a chance to walk a different path than the one he's walking himself.
So her brother helps her study.
And you know what? There's a montage to let us know that Akeelah does have 50000 coaches. Her community is so proud of her, that everyone is taking time to help her study.
Akeelah even makes up with her coach, Larry, by telling him that when her dad died, she thought she had lost everything, but then she found spelling and it made her whole life better. She also makes up with her awesome best friend and invites her to go to the spelling bee with her.
The night before the Big Bee, Akeelah and Javier and her awesome best friend are hanging out, drinking soda. She decides to invite Dylan because he seems pretty lonely a lot, but his dad won't let him because he's making Dylan study.
The pressure is on.
This is for real
Back in LA, everyone is tuned in to watch Akeelah kick butt.
And her pretty brother kept his promise too!
Dylan is all side-eye and intimidation until:
Just the two of them are left.
Now, Akeelah knows that Dylan's dad is kind of a jerk and is really putting the pressure on Dylan to win by telling him shit like if he doesn't win, he'll be second place his whole life. So Akeelah goes to spell a word and she misses on purpose and Dylan knows she missed on purpose, so when it's his turn to spell the word and win the bee, he throws the word too and goes to Akeelah and is all "What the hell was that?!" And she's all "You deserve to win." And he's all "Not like this, I want to win for real." So they agree to go for the gold. Together.
There are 25 "Championship words" in the final round. If neither speller gets a word wrong, they are co-champions. This has never happened before. Until...
They get all the words right. Two words remain. Dylan gets his word right, so he's at least guaranteed a co-championship with Akeelah. As Akeelah steps up to the mic for the last word he says something like "Go, Akeelah!" Which is really nice.
And then she gets her word, which she totally knows, Pulchritude.
(And, thanks to this movie, I now know how to spell pulchritude.)
(This is her dad, yeah, ARE YOU CRYING YET?!)
Someone's a winner.
Teamwork = THIS.