Doug Atchison first had the idea of making a film about spelling bees after watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee of 1994 and noticing that most of the contestants had \"privileged backgrounds\". Atchison also considered spelling bees to contain \"all the drama and tension and entertainment value of a sporting event\", and felt that this could be made into a film. From this, he got the idea to write a script following the story of a child who had talent for spelling bee but was from a low-income neighborhood so did not \"have access to the resources or coaching to pursue it as these other kids had.\" He had the desire of making a \"Rocky-like story\" and although made it a \"dramatic\" plot, he declared it is \"essentially a sports movie\".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote it is \"an uncommonly good movie, entertaining and actually inspirational\". Writing for Film Journal International, Doris Toumarkine praised its pace and how \"Atchison takes spelling competitions and conveys the excitement of the 'sport,' the appeal of the 'game,' the thrill of the win, [and] the crushing blow of the loss\". Hornaday from The Washington Post called the film \"a triumph on many levels\" and especially appreciated that South Los Angeles was presented without stereotypes. Jane Clifford of U-T San Diego felt the film would appeal to both children and adults, and stated that every time she tried to predict its plot \"it took a sharp turn. A turn that leaves you facing your stereotypes and feeling a little sheepish\". Dana Stevens, writing for The New York Times, asserted, \"The innate suspense and charm of the spelling bee\", and \"a trio of crack performances\" can turn \"a formulaic sports picture\" into a \"tale that manages to inspire without being sappy\". Shantayaé Grant of The Jamaica Observer wrote that \"acting is spectacular, the emotions are real and this story of black triumph is simply phenomenal\". A New York Press critic affirmed that Akeelah and the Bee \"resurrects a nearly lost idea of what an art-movie really is\" because it has \"dramatic attention to character and place, psychology and existence\".
So far I imagine \"Akeelah and the Bee\" sounds like a nice but fairly conventional movie. What makes it transcend the material is the way she relates to the professor, and to two fellow contestants: a Mexican-American named Javier (J.R. Villarreal) and an Asian American named Dylan (Sean Michael Afable). Javier, who lives with his family in the upscale Woodland Hills neighborhood, invites Akeelah to his birthday party (unaware of what a long bus trip it involves). Dylan, driven by an obsessive father, treats the spelling bee like life-and-death, and takes no hostages. Hearing his father berate him, Akeelah feels an instinctive sympathy. And as for Javier's feelings for Akeelah, at his party, he impulsively kisses her.
This ending answers one of my problems with spelling bees, and spelling bee movies. It removes winning as the only objective. Vince Lombardi was dead wrong when he said, \"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing\" (a quote, by the way, first said not by Lombardi but in the 1930s by UCLA coach Henry \"Red\" Sanders -- but since everybody thinks Lombardi said it, he won, I guess). The saying is mistaken because to win for the wrong reason or in the wrong way is to lose. Something called sportsmanship is involved.
She was the mother of a male contestant (Speller #62) in the same district spelling bee as Akeelah Anderson (the main protagonist of the movie). After Akeelah misspelled her word, Speller #62 only had to spell his word right to claim the final spot in the state competition. His word was \"carmagnole\" and he began to spell when he froze up, unsure of the next letter. 781b155fdc