Saturday, April 14, 2007

Akeelah and the Bee

OK, this is one of those movies where you just know how it ends as soon as it starts, and that's perfectly OK because you want it to end that way because that is just the way it is supposed to end. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.
I freely admit that I am not a cinema sophisticate. I generally do not look to film for my philosophy, theology or much of anything I think of as really important. Mostly I just want good stories I can enjoy. I especially appreciate heroic action (Legends of the Fall, Last of the Mohicans, Air Force One), but I am not averse to many movies commonly lumped under the chick flick category (I desist from naming names) if it's a good story and the characters are not morons. Serious films don't get too much play in my house, not because I'm never serious, but mostly because on a Friday night, after the kids are in bed, I really am not all that interested in engaging in the worlds problems. I have nothing against such films, and when I do watch them, I'm typically glad I did (assuming it was a good film). Akeelah falls into a different category. It's a feel good film, with a fair amount of life lessons built in. Preachy? Sure. But since I grew up in the church, I appreciate good preaching. And this is pretty good preaching.
Here's what I loved the captured my girls and gave them a great story that they can reflect on about how to deal with fear, pain, goals, ridicule, community, family, and reaching out into the unknown. I have already had several conversations where Akeelah was discussed. My youngest even cried when the film ended because she wants to do what Akeelah did when she gets old enough. Like I said, it captured them.
Keke Palmer plays the title character and she nails it. Laurenc Fishburne is full of Fishburnian gravitas, and in a few scenes goes all stiff and wooden, but it's easy to overlook if you aren't being critical. And I do not recommend approaching this with a critical eye. It ain't sophisticated or cynical, but it is written with grace and charm, a generous spirit seasoned with humor, toughness and tenderness all mixed together. I laughed. I cried. You should see it.

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