Bee Season Scott McGehee and David Siegel

Who knows why, but spelling bees are inherently awesome. What's better than watching scared-to-death smart kids spell words that probably don't exist in real life? The answer, according to Bee Season, is… Kabbalah?

In this movie, a self-absorbed Jewish biblical scholar (played unconvincingly by Richard Gere) tries to teach his daughter - the district spelling bee champion - to use her mad spelling skillz, combined with a Kabbalist technique, to communicate with God. Literally. This movie goes from spelling bees to stigmata like, whammo, out of nowhere.

Because of all the attention being heaped on the child for her newfound ability to spell/chat with the almighty, the rest of Gere's overachieving family get jealous and sneak off to find spiritual meaning of their own elsewhere (with the Hare Krishnas, for one). But too much spiritual conflict under one roof causes the family to combust.

Based on a sizable novel by Myla Goldberg, there are a lot of things being crammed into a two-hour movie here and it shows. You can tell that director duo McGehee and Siegel have much to say about family dynamics and religious beliefs but absolutely no idea how to say it. There's a pervasive weirdness to the whole story and an overuse of dainty special effects that make you feel like you're watching a big-budget episode of Ghostwriter.

Bee Season, though interesting when it tries least to be, is overwrought and hard to take seriously. While the movie involves itself in a lot of underrepresented material, it doesn't quite fit together for any final purpose. If nothing else, this film will have a fun time finding its audience. (Fox Searchlight)