Can you spell prestidigitation? How about elucubrate? Pulchritude?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Tim Engstrom, Pothole Prairie

Go see this movie: &8220;Akeelah and the Bee.&8221; It is now playing.

Lisa and I on Saturday night visited the fair city of Mason City, Iowa, ate dinner, drove around to kill time, were amazed at how fine the parks are there, and finally capped the evening by going to the movies.

The theater lobby was full of people, but they weren’t going to see &8220;Akeelah and the Bee.&8221; They went to see &8220;RV,&8221; &8220;Silent Hill,&8221; and &8220;Stick It.&8221; We sat in the theater alone until an older couple walked in. They looked well-educated. The movie started and right after three high school girls walked in. They looked like straight-A students.

(OK, c’mon. Anyone can make a good guess.)

And that was it. A stadium-seating theater for seven people on a Saturday night. Apparently, this was going to be one of those movies that will become known via word of mouth, much like &8220;My Big Fat Greek Wedding&8221; did in 2002. Hopefully, it won’t disappear from the screen before people learn about it.

&8220;Akeelah and the Bee&8221; is a movie about an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles who tries to make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. It is a movie for people who like words &045; like newspaper readers. It is a movie for parents who want their kids to achieve great things. It is a movie for the smart kids, the ones who get heckled for embracing knowledge.

You surely have heard of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. ESPN broadcasts the bee every year. It moves to prime time on ABC this year. Watch for it June 1.

Young Akeelah Anderson, played right on by Keke Palmer, overcomes a backward school system, family turmoil and a dangerous neighborhood to shoot for her goal, one that at first she was reluctant to go for. In doing so she changes people around her. Angela Bassett plays her mother, and Laurence Fishburne plays her mentor. Curtis Armstrong, who played Booger in &8220;Revenge of the Nerds,&8221; is her school principal.

Some films are nothing but actors moving around and talking. This is one of those movies that makes you forget you are watching actors &045;&160;especially when seen on the big screen. You get into the characters and forget they are actors. You truly wish them success and are sad when they fail.

So many teenage movies are about Disney-like popular girls. You know: Hillary Duff. How often is the main character geeky and smart &045; and poor. Under the Disney formula, teen girls are supposed to be wealthy, pretty and more popular than the average bear.

&8220;Akeelah and the Bee&8221; might follow a Hollywood formula for endings, but it comes after a un-Hollywood style plot. It’s a sweet movie, so go with the flow. Many of the scenes &045; remember the jump rope, if you see it &045; are electrifying. Ebert and Ropert give the film two thumbs way up.

The moral of the movie is that we all should shoot for the stars. We all have the potential to be greater than we think we do. Our biggest naysayer is ourselves.

The movie gets a lot out of a good Marriane Williamson quote (often found on the Internet incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela, by the way). It goes:

&8220;Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?&8221;

That’s true. We throw our lives and our potential away. Everyone does. How dare you sit around and watch TV all day. You are a wonderful person. Get up. Do something with your life. Live. Succeed. Shoot for the stars. Paint a picture. Sing a song. Write a poem. Plant a tree. Play with your dog. Ride your bike. Stitch a quilt. Climb a tree. Spell.

One way or another, find a project. In doing so, you’ll find out about yourself.

If you are interested in spelling, you should know the winning words. Quiz that person sitting across the living room. Tell them to shut off the television. Here are winning words from the National Spelling Bee, starting with 1984.

luge

milieu

odontalgia

staphylococci

elegiacal

spoliator

fibranne

antipyretic

lyceum

kamikaze

antediluvian

xanthosis

vivisepulture

euonym

chiaroscurist

logorrhea

demarche

succedaneum

prospicience

pococurante

autochthonous

appoggiatura

(Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.)