Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

1391876.t.jpg
Keke Palmer, star of Akeelah and the Bee, a spelling-bee drama that opens nationwide today, has just challenged us to a game of hangman.

Like Akeelah's title character — an L.A. girl who makes it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee — the 12-year-old Palmer loves competing, especially with words. Within two minutes, a stick figure is dangling from the gallows Palmer has drawn. "You're not very good at this, are you?" she asks.

Palmer is exceptionally good in Akeelah, a feel-good movie written and directed by Doug Atchison. It plays like any number of sports flicks — Remember the Titans, Glory Road — in which scrappy underdogs overcome myriad obstacles to come out on top.

Only Akeelah celebrates words. Atchison came up with the story more than a decade ago, but the recent success of spelling-bee doc Spellbound opened the door for Hollywood. "Spellbound got the idea out there that spelling bees are fun, competitive, and interesting," he says. "It was a good thing for us."

Atchison says that Palmer — who was nominated for a Screen Actor's Guild Award last year for her role in TNT's The Wool Cap — immediately won him over. "She's so natural," he says. "She was so connected to the part."

Akeelah also stars Laurence Fishburne as a former spelling-bee competitor who preps Akeelah, and Angela Bassett (reuniting with Fishburne for the first time since What's Love Got to Do With It) as the girl's doubting mother. But this is Akeelah's movie. "You don't need to know how to play basketball to enjoy Hoosiers," says Atchison. "And you don't need to know how to spell words to enjoy Akeelah." See Film for review.
Fri., April 28

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Highlights

More by Michael Gallucci

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation