By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Slapstick adventure sweet, but treats running away lightly.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love eventually outweighs greed for two criminals who come to appreciate the innocence of and attachment to a child. The idea that children need love and attention is an important theme.
Positive Role Models
The criminals change their evil ways after their experience with the sweet and innocent Savannah. Her parents are not as attentive as they should be.
Violence & Scariness
The film begins with an outdoor prison break with rifle shots and explosions. Alvie robs a corner market with a gun, which Boots shortly after uses to accidentally shoot out one of the tires of their getaway car. Rifle shots later in the film, but no one is hurt.
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Infrequent uses of "hell," "bastard," "damn," and "bitchin'."
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Products & Purchases
Budweiser cans and signage are prominent throughout the film.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alvie is seen drunk with empty beer bottles around him at a bar; the next day he experiences a painful hangover. Alvie chews tobacco. Beer is consumed at a picnic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this sweet but dated story treats the apparent abduction of a child lightly -- something that might strike modern-day parents as uncomfortable or inappropriate. There are some heartwarming moments that may bring out some tears. Also expect occasional mild profanity ("hell," "bastard"), some rifle play, beer and chewing tobacco, and lots of Budweiser signage.
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
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What's the Story?
Feeling neglected by her parents as they plot her dad's senatorial campaign, 6-year-old Savannah decides to run away from home. She escapes during a game of hide-and-seek with friends in a park by hiding in the backseat of a stolen car driven by Alvie (Mark Miller) and Boots (Donovan Scott), two bumbling escaped convicts. As they hide from the authorities, Savannah charms this wayward pair, and they must decide if their growing love of her playful innocence outweighs their greed for the reward money being offered.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to believe that a film about a little girl running away from home and falling in with two felons could be both wacky and heartwarming, but this one succeeds. Many consider SAVANNAH SMILES to be a classic film of the early 1980s. While it's arguable whether or not the film has stood the test of time, or whether 21st century kids will appreciate a film loved by parents when they were kids, Savannah Smiles is, at its core, a sweet film about how the love of innocent children is more powerful than greed or ambition.
The plot isn't exactly the most original or unpredictable; the characters aren't the deepest; the action not the most realistic; but despite this, Savannah Smiles holds period charm for nostalgic adults, and these adults might just convince their kids to give it a shot. (And they might want to have a conversation about the perils of running away while they're at it.)
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Savannah was inspired to run away, in part, from watching a Little Rascals episode where Alfalfa announces that he wants to run away from home. Has there ever been a time when TV or movies influenced a questionable decision you made? Does it happen often?
How realistic is Savannah's story? How would the themes of running away and abduction be treated differently today?
- In theaters: May 1, 1982
- On DVD or streaming: September 26, 2006
- Cast: Donovan Scott, Mark Miller, Pat Morita
- Director: Pierre De Moro
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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