Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30
  1. 100
    Keke Palmer, a young Chicago actress whose first role was as Queen Latifah's niece in "Barbershop 2," becomes an important young star with this movie. It puts her in Dakota Fanning and Thora Cross territory, and there's something about her poise and self-possession that hints she will grow up to be a considerable actress.
  2. Reviewed by: Devin Gordon
  3. 88
    All the gears, in fact, are shamelessly visible, yet they lock smoothly and resonantly into place. If Akeelah and the Bee is a generic, well-oiled commercial contraption, it is the first to credibly dramatize the plight of a truly gifted, poor black child.
  4. Blessed with excellent turns by Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, this feel-gooder revels in its hip-to-be-square hyperliteracy, and neatly exceeds its own PSA-ness, practically amounting to a black, preteen "Good Will Hunting."
  5. A movie like this could easy slide into Shirley Temple territory, showcasing a child actor so full of sweetness and light and good, old-fashioned spunk that audiences wince. But Palmer, whose enthusiasm and energy never seem forced, avoids all those traps; her Akeelah is never less than believable.
  6. Reviewed by: Felix Vasques Jr.
    A film like this has to be seen. It's beautiful, it's encouraging, and it really inspires its audience to commit to something positive.
  7. Reviewed by: Jim Ridley
    A sweet-natured, immensely likable family film.
  8. The innate suspense and charm of the spelling bee, along with a trio of crack performances, turn what is in essence a formulaic sports picture into something more satisfying: an underdog tale that manages to inspire without being sappy.
  9. This small gem about a South Central LA girl with a gift for spelling restores luster to the family genre.
  10. I'm not sure how tolerable this would be without Palmer's charm, because this is a formulated script where everything is tied up in perfect bows, just like life isn't.
  11. In its final act, Akeelah is as exciting as any Final Four matchup. What it may lack in cinematic art it compensates for in abecedarian adrenaline guaranteed to pump the pulse and the spirits of viewers from 10 to 90.
  12. Akeelah and the Bee connects where it counts most, on an emotional level. Only a curmudgeon could watch this feisty but vulnerable youngster rack up victories against all odds without tearing up.
  13. 75
    Sentimental, manipulative, predictable and utterly charming.
  14. Reviewed by: Sara Brady
    The climactic spelling bee sequence is as tautly written and edited as any gridiron drama, and Palmer's performance here is truly gripping.
  15. A slight but winning heart-tugger.
  16. Effectively anchoring the picture is Keke Palmer's lovely lead performance as Akeelah Anderson.
  17. 70
    While it can't have been easy to find action points for a drama about vocabulary drills, Atchison comes up with a steady stream of plot-propelling business, including Akeelah's flair for jump rope, a skill that serves her beautifully in a clinch moment.
  18. 70
    It helps that newcomer Keke Palmer nails it as the 11-year-old prodigy, avoiding cuteness and conveying more angst than all the pasty freaks in "Spellbound" combined.
  19. A genuinely sweet and determinedly inspirational family film that features a charming young actress in the title role. It's a successful feel-good movie, but it would make you feel even better if it didn't push quite so hard for its desired effects.
  20. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    This earnest weepie plays like "The Karate Kid" with a pro-literacy agenda, pushing all the right emotional buttons yet hitting quite a few wrong ones in the process.
  21. 70
    By turns funny, affecting tale.
  22. You can't help but root for Akeelah as she reclaims the pride in her talents and her achievements. That's an idea worth spelling out to a young audience.
  23. 67
    As the conceptually similar documentary "Spellbound" proved, spelling bees are innately dramatic. But that doesn't keep Atchison from constantly pushing the film toward theatrical moments instead of letting the drama arise organically from the story.
  24. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Predictable, corny and formulaic...Yet this latest triumph of the spelling-bee spirit, like last year's earnest, flawed film version of "Bee Season," features a film-saving performance where it counts most: from the kid playing the kid with big brain and even bigger heart.
  25. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    So warm and well-meaning that you may find yourself wanting to like it more than you really do.
  26. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    You could be cynical about the first movie produced by the coffee colossus Starbucks. But there's nothing cynical about Akeelah's story of courage and determination.
  27. Normally, such saccharine inspiration only manages to clog the heart, not warm it. But there's a true original in this den of clich├ęs and her name is Keke Palmer.
  28. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    There's charm in this simple underdog tale, but clunky plotting and characterisation mean it has 'telemovie' written all over it.
  29. It is a rewarding tale for public educators, parents, and kids with big dreams.
  30. 50
    It's unfortunate that the lack of originality in plot and character keeps Akeelah and the Bee stuck firmly in "After-School Special" territory.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 77 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 30
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 30
  3. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. Apr 27, 2014
    i already seen keke win the spelling be a thousands of times . this movie is gay an i can not believe critics are loving this . Grade F.......................................................................... Full Review »
  2. Jan 18, 2014
    All in all, this is an incredibly inspiring movie that is so heartfelt and intellectual at the same time. A very rare film that will make any age group fall in love with the characters. Full Review »
  3. Sep 20, 2013
    You will be amazed by this movies ability to make you laugh and cry at the same time; and Keke Palmer is just great. There are some flaws, but 75% of the movie is on par. Full Review »