Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that the movie includes mild language (s--t) and early on, some "attitude" from the young girl at its center. But her "ghetto" vernacular is a show to try to "fit in," a thematic concern throughout the film, for the girl and adults around her. A related theme is coping with loss; a couple of sad conversations recall the deaths of loved ones (one by gun violence, another by disease), and divorce. Characters lie to protect loved ones, and must make amends. In a couple of scenes, the mother and daughter argue. A couple of women characters wear tight tops; the girl's coach has a drink one evening alone.
A couple of cleavage shots; cute boy kisses Akeelah and worries, "you going to sue me for sexual harassment?" (it's a joke moment, but kids might wonder about it).
Two girls bully Akeelah because they think she's a "brainiac." They start to push and shove her before the principal steps in to stop it. Brief conversations about the deaths of Akeelah's dad and her coach's daughter, one killed in neighborhood violence, another by disease; one speller's father claps his hands loudly to get his attention during an argument (Akeelah overhears and jumps at the sound); local thugs roll up like a menace in an SUV, but are instantly won over by Akeelah's project.
Infrequent profanity: "s--t," "ass," "hell," "damn." During the spelling bee, Akeelah's brother dismisses a multi-syllabic word as being a "white word." While watching the spelling bee in a diner, a middle-aged African American man calls one of the competitors, an 8th grade Korean boy, "uppity."
The importance being yourself and not hiding your intelligence--no matter what bullies might have to say about it--is shown early on in the film, as Akeelah learns to embrace her profound gift for spelling. A quote from Maryanne Williamson commonly attributed to Nelson Mandela about not being afraid to live at one's fullest potential is a centerpiece of the film. The power of a community to rally together and help one of their own find success is shown throughout the movie.
Starbucks (marketing tie-in with film named in the opening credits), ESPN shown and mentioned as the channel that broadcasts the National Spelling Bee each year.
Drugs / Tobacco /
Akeelah's mother is shown smoking a cigarette. Her spelling coach is shown having a drink at his desk, but does not act intoxicated.