Spelling Bees of Stage and Screen


Spelling bees are not really interesting for anyone other than the families of the contestants.  They are rather dry and repetitive.

But a movie about an underdog who stands a chance to be the best in the nation, despite everything standing against her, does make for an exciting and inspirational movie!  Akeelah and the Bee (2006 PG) succeeds.

Akeelah (Keke Palmer), a middle schooler from a rough LA neighborhood is identified as a potential great speller by her principal (Curtis Armstrong).  Principal Welch encourages her to spend time with reclusive coach Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), even though her mother (Angela Bassett) is too busy to support her.  Her classmates mock her, and she struggles to even attend practices and spelling bees, yet she has a gift that she is willing to work to develop.

Here Akeelah makes it to the national finals in Washington DC:

Spelling bee contestants are allowed to ask three questions:  The definition, the language of origin, and to have it used in a sentence.  If they start spelling again, they must not change the letters already spoken.  After spelling, they state the word again.  If incorrect, a small bell is rung, and the speller is eliminated and must leave the stage.

pages 3-25B FINAL.indd

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical that takes all the traits of spelling bees – competitive parents, quirky spelling rituals, lonely students, and strict rules – and make it all pretty funny!  My daughter’s high school theater department staged the production.

Watch this clip that shows how funny they make the questions spellers are allowed to ask:  Funny Spelling Bee Questions

Fun movie!  Funny musical!

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