A young girl learns to believe in herself and value her intelligence in this critically-acclaimed, family-friendly drama. Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) is an 11-year-old being raised by her mother, Tanya (Angela Bassett), who was left on her own after the death of her husband. While Akeelah is a very bright girl, she's hardly a star student and seems afraid of acting like a bookworm around her friends and classmates. However, Akeelah's teacher sees genuine potential in her student and encourages her to enter the school's spelling bee, convinced Akeelah has the brains and the talent to win. Akeelah applies herself and emerges victorious in the local competition, but discovers the going gets tougher when she goes to a statewide bee, studying for the regionals under the aegis of strict English teacher Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), who consents to act as her coach A college professor who was a spelling-bee champ as a child, Larabee is a stubborn taskmaster who questions Akeelah's ability and commitment, but in time he develops a respect for his pupil and helps her prove her talent as she climbs the ladder to the National Spelling Bee. Meanwhile, Tanya feels intimidated when she finds the contests are dominated by children from wealthy families and privileged backgrounds, and argues that the competition may not be in Akeelah's best interest, believing instead that homework should be the one and only priority in Akeelah's life. It soon becomes apparent that if Akeelah has any intention of entering the national spelling bee championships in Washington, D.C., she will not do so with Tanya's permission or blessing. This marks the first onscreen reunion of Bassett and Fishburne since their Academy Award-nommed performances as Ike Turner and Tina Turner in Brian Gibson's 1993 biopic, What's Love Got to Do with It.
by Mark Deming synopsis