Carol and I had the chance to go to the movies this past weekend for the first time since Valentine's Day, when we saw that romantic comedy, Capote. I wanted to see Thank You for Smoking, which gotten very good reviews, including from near-twin Gordon over a month ago. She wanted to see Akeelah and the Bee. Her logic was sound. Even though Smoking came out earlier, Akeelah is showing only twice a day, whereas Smoking is still going four times daily.
This is a sports movie. By that, I mean there are conventions that the movie inevitably takes, such as the "big game" at the end. Yet I ended up being quite taken by the story. A lot of that I'd credit the young actress Keke Palmer, who's so convincing you'd think this was a documentary rather than a drama. Angela Bassett, as her mother and especially, Laurence Fishburne as her coach were particularly effective, though one scene with pupil and coach got dangerously close to treacle. Fishburne also served as one of the producers.
Very effective as the father of Akeelah's chief competitor was Tzi Ma, who you might have seen on "Commander in Chief" or "24" this past season, although I wondered about the stereotype of the very competitive Asian kid.
I was briefly taken out of the movie when I saw Eddie Steeples as a street thug. It's not his fault that Carol and I looked at each other and thought " 'Crabman' from 'My Name Is Earl'!"
What is it about the spelling bee that has made it so compelling recently? First, there was the 2002 documentary Spellbound, not to be confused with the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. then there was last year's Bee Season. On Broadway, the Tony Award-winning production is playing in Schenectady (in this metro area) next spring.
Early in the movie, Akeelah is watching the National Spelling Bee finals on ESPN. This year, tonight in fact, the semifinals are on on ESPN (noon-3pm, EDT), but the finals will be live on ABC (8-10 pm, EDT). We have a rooting interest, a girl from one of the school district in which Carol teaches
On the way home from the film, we stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts less than a block from the theater to share one of those cold drinks. Independently, both of us thought that one of the young women behind the counter looked very much like a young Angela Bassett! We didn't say anything until we left, and we wondered if we had been projecting this from seeing the film, but it's unlikely that both of us would generate the same vision. I went in again yesterday, and she still looks like Bassett. Strange.