WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, broadcast annually on ESPN, grabbed greater public awareness a few years ago after the release of the fun, compelling documentary Spellbound. That film followed a handful of colorful middle-schoolers who qualified for the big spell-off in Washington, D.C. It revealed the high-pressure world of competitive spelling and offered healthy doses of genuine tension and humor.

Recognizing the dramatic potential of spelling as sport, Akeelah and the Bee writer and director Doug Atchison now tells the fictional story of a girl with natural spelling talent from a rough part of south L.A. Eleven-year-old Akeelah Anderson is forced to expose her hidden smarts when her principal pushes her to participate in the school spelling bee. At first fearful of being mocked as a "brainiac," Akeelah warms to the idea of going to D.C. to compete on a national level. She also—eventually—agrees to be coached by the reclusive, strict, sometimes harsh Dr. Joshua Larabee.

The brilliant, sober teacher and the precocious girl begin to bond. But Akeelah's widowed mother of four doesn't like all the time her daughter is devoting to spelling. And she's not happy about Akeelah taking the bus to the wealthy suburbs to practice with her new, brainy pals from the bees. To make it to D.C., then, Akeelah realizes she's going to need to make some hard choices and find all the help she can get.

Advertisement

Positive Elements

This moving little film is full of positive messages. Akeelah's mom works hard to provide for her family, and Akeelah's beloved older brother in the Air Force encourages her to do the best she can. Akeelah's teen-mom sister and gang wannabe brother also help and encourage Akeelah. Even Akeelah's late father continues to exert a positive influence on her with his love for words and solid, masculine example. The principal and teachers at Akeelah's desperate school do a great job of recognizing Akeelah's potential and pushing her to step out and try harder.

Dr. Larabee helps Akeelah recognize that she's afraid of being too smart and wanting to do too well in life. His character also models great teaching techniques, directing Akeelah to a greater understanding of language to grow her spelling skills. In the process, the pair encourages each other to confront issues of grief and loss with which both struggle.

Akeelah is mostly welcomed by other kids from the wealthy suburbs, in spite of her lower income and unfamiliarity with the world of high-stakes spelling. One boy, especially, befriends and helps her to navigate her new surroundings. Another boy is cruel to Akeelah. But she soon realizes he is being mercilessly pressured by his unrelenting coach/dad, and she gains a real compassion for him that results in an act of great sacrifice.

Finally, the movie emphasizes that Akeelah's success grows both out of her own hard work and the loving support of her community.

Spiritual Content

Dr. Larabee asks Akeelah to read a famous quote stating that our deepest fear is of our own greatness. It includes the line that we are "born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us."

Sexual Content

A boy with a crush on Akeelah kisses her unexpectedly (and chastely) on the cheek. Then he quickly says, "You're not going to sue me for sexual harassment, are you?" Both laugh. She later returns his affectionate gesture.

Violent Content

A deceased character is said to have been killed in a random shooting. A couple of bullying girls at Akeelah's school push her around and hit her.

Crude or Profane Language

The s-word is blurted out by a middle-schooler. There are also two or three uses each of "h---" and "a--." A disliked boy is called a "turd juggler."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Dr. Larabee is seen drinking alone in his office. Akeelah's mom smokes.

Other Negative Elements

While watching the spelling championship on TV, an older man from Akeelah's neighborhood makes a disparaging comment about not liking another contestant who is Korean. When corrected that the boy is Chinese, he calls him "uppity."

Conclusion

Atchison has crafted a moving, even inspirational winner of a film. It's not that Akeelah and the Bee treads unique territory. The plot mostly follows the Rocky template, as our hero overcomes impossible odds for her shot at unlikely glory. In fact, things get downright corny at several key moments. But I didn't care at all. The story had me, and it kept working right up to the end.

Credit Atchison for his lively writing and building into the tale a minor chord. We don't just root for Akeelah because she's the underdog, but because we resonate with the sadness in the lives of all the characters. Credit also the gravitas of heavyweights Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in delivering graceful, sincere performances. And maybe credit most of all the amazing young Keke Palmer who makes Akeelah strong and sad and hopeful while remaining a believable tween.

It's too bad the filmmakers felt the need to include a bit of foul language, because the film's central messages are so utterly positive. Akeelah succeeds, in part, because she's urged by loving adults to try, to believe that she's capable of doing great things. And when she does try, her friends, family and neighbors rally to help her achieve her goals. That kind of compassionate discipline and communal support could help spell success for kids in every neighborhood, and it's encouraging to see it in action in such a likable movie.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!