Savannah Smiles Movie Review Summary

Actors: Bridgette Andersen, Mark Miller, Donovan Scott, Pat Morita, Peter Graves, Michael Parks, Joanne Stanger

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Savannah Smiles

A six-year-old girl runs away from her family's cold pretentious lifestyle and ends ups befriending two escaped convicts. Savannah Driscoll (Bridgette Andersen), a wide-eyed young child, toils with neglect and the folly of her absent politically-minded parents, Richard (Chris Robinson) and Joanne (Barbara Stanger). Though Savannah's mother seems to love her child a great deal, her husband's self-centered ambitions take precedent in their household.
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At the start of the film, we find Bootsie (Donovan Scott), breaking his best friend, Alvie (Mark Miller), free from prison. Bootsie aka Boots is presented as a childlike well-meaning conman compared to his cynical hardened criminal friend Alvie. Immediately, the men go on the run from the cops in the old rundown car Boots has secured for them.

Meanwhile, at a high-profile political event, guised as a garden party young Savannah tired of being ignored decides to run away.   She packs her suitcase and sneaks it into the back of her aunt's car, who has arrived to take her to a local park and out of her parents' hair. While on a merry-go-round at the park, Savannah's slightly older cousin, recounts a story of two beggars who save a princess and make her into the queen once they realize their love for her. We get the notion that love is not romantic but truly pure and made of an honesty that even this young child fears she is not seeing. Next, the children decide to play a game of hide and seek. Savannah decides this is the best time for her to run away, so she goes to get her bag from her aunt's car and stuffs it into the first car she sees and gets inside. She has no idea that the two men driving the car are criminals and the two men have no idea Savannah is in their car.

The men, who'd been at the park to pick a couple of pockets so they could buy food, spot the police arriving, and decide that the park is a dangerous place for them to be. They speed off, but nearly crash from the excitement. An officer pulls them over, and tells them they should be careful while driving around a kid. The shocked men look back and see Savannah, but not wanting to be caught by the police pretend they know she's been there all along.

As the film progresses, the bond of love and family grows between Savannah, Alvie, and Boots. Eventually, the men have to find a place for them to live and Boots gets a job so that they can feed Savannah legitimately.One morning, they ask Savannah why she ran away, and she explains that her parents always go off and leave her, even at Christmas.

Boots and Savannah make-believe and read stories together, but Alvie's a little reluctant to be too nice to Savannah. He, after all wasn't treated very nicely as a child, why should he be nice to anyone else? Alvie thinks they should give her back relatively quickly, but when he hears that a large reward is being offered for Savannah's safe return, he changes his tune. The next day, Savannah spikes a fever and Alvie takes her to his old girlfriend, Doreen, to help them find a doctor. They do, and Savannah is soon fine. Boots, however, begins to doubt their ability to care for a child and ends up calling Savannah's parents to tell them they want to return her - no reward necessary. When Alvie finds out what Boots has done, he blows his top.   Meanwhile, back at Savannah's family's house, Richard and Joanne are frantic. It seems as if Richard, however, is more focused on what this looks like for him politically rather than the safety of his child.

The next morning, Alvie's mood takes a turn for the better and the men take Savannah and on a picnic in the mountains. Savannah gets a puppy and ice cream, and we can see that Savannah is getting what she finally wanted – attention and familial love.

Back at the hideout the next day, Savannah wakes up from a bad dream and Alvie comforts her. Little does he know the police have found them – thanks to Alvie's old girlfriend, Doreen. As Alvie sends Savannah off with Boots to get ready for the day, a bullet cascades through the kitchen window, nearly striking him. Alvie pulls out his gun and points it at the window. “What in the hell do you think you're doing!” He shouts, “There's a kid in here!” The police tell him that no one wants to hurt anyone, but Alive doesn't buy it. All bets are off. Alvie shouts to Boots to grab Savannah and get ready to get out of there. Alvie tells the police that they are coming out and to promise to not make any moves.

The police comply as they escape through the backdoor, but not before a priest, Father O'Hara (Pat Morita), appears to try to talk them into giving Savannah back. The men force the priest into the car at gun point and they go on the run again. The priest tells them that he has to do a wedding, and they stop and take him. They all go in and when they come out, they have a new car. They head for the mountains. Father O'Hara and Alvie are found at a call station at the bottom of the mountains speaking to Savannah's parents, saying they want to give Savannah back with a promise of no police. Savannah's father promises not to involve the police, but when he hangs up we see him calling them anyway. His wife is anything but pleased.

Later, we see Savannah and Boots have driven further up and are waiting at a point where they will give Savannah back once the priest arrives with Alvie to wait with her and the men make a clean get away.

While Boots nervously paces, Savannah asks if she can take her puppy to the bathroom. He allows her to do so, not noticing they've both scurried off. Alvie and Father O'Hara arrive and find Savannah is gone. The men are panicked. The priest tells them to go so they won't be caught and that he'll find her. The men refuse and put themselves in harm's way to make sure Savannah is okay.

Eventually, it's Alvie who finds her by a craggy creek below the main road. They sit and talk about her puppy, about how dangerous it is to run off, and that next time the people may not have turned out to be so nice. He makes her promise never to do that again. She promises. He lets her know he thinks they had a good time, but it's time to go home. We can see the police up on the main road, waiting to take Alvie. Savannah smiles, telling him she had a good time too. Alvie gives Savannah a piggy-back-ride until her mother arrives, shouting her name. Savannah happily runs into her arms. When they arrive on the main road, Savannah hugs her father briefly until she spots Boots. She runs to him and gives him a tearful goodbye. Then Savannah is put in the back of a police car with her mother, who tells Savannah's father not to bother coming with them after the cold way he'd behaved.

Alvie and Boots are cuffed as Savannah waves goodbye to them as the police car drives away, not realizing what's happened to her friends. Boots says he hopes no one ever tells her they were bad guys, and Alvie replies, “It won't make no difference.”
Best part of story, including ending: I like that the film depicts people at very different crossroads in their lives, who need love. It doesn't matter that Savannah's rich and Alvie and Boots are poor. It doesn't matter that she is innocent, and they've seen the worst part of society, what matters is human kindness, understanding and care. Great film.

Best scene in story: When Alvie and Boots take Savannah to the mountains for a picnic, a montage done to the song "Savannah Smiles" as they run around, enjoy the day and let Savannah actually "smile" something she's rarely gotten to do at home.

Opinion about the main character: Savannah really should not have run away. It seems so dangerous, but of course, where would the movie have been. She's a sweet kid, and I always hoped in the end that she remembered the lessons she learned on her journey. It seems it was her mother who had to change in order to make things better for her daughter. By the end, it seems as if she did. After an ordeal like that, who wouldn't?

The review of this Movie prepared by Allison Marienne a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Script Analysis of Savannah Smiles

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of movie:    -   1980's-1999 Family, struggling with    -   Yes Struggle with:    -   Daughter Crime & Scandal    -   Yes Story of    -   criminal becomes sensitive How much humor v. drama    -   More drama than serious humor

Main Character

Identity:    -   Female Age:    -   a kid Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White American


United States    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   no torture/death

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