Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Smitty Movie Poster Image
Family drama with teen rebellion, heavy-handed lessons.
  • PG
  • 2012
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film underscores the importance of the family, respecting your elders, friendship, stick-with-it-ness, good old-fashioned elbow grease, and the importance of basic manners.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ben is a troubled teen who discovers the meaning of hard work through the aid of his grandfather, a stern but caring presence. His grandfather's friend Mr. Smith, the antiques shop owner, teaches Ben about hard work and following through on your commitments, and the farm dog's unyielding protectiveness teaches Ben about friendship. Ben's mother Amanda is a caring, but frazzled, parent.


The movie has a few key moments of scariness, including the death of a friend, a beloved pet being hit by a truck, and a handful of other scenes. In one, Ben and a gang trash a restaurant by breaking dishes, destroying mirrors, and spray-painting the walls. In another, some kids use a quarter-stick of dynamite to kill the fish in a pond. A dog is put in danger when commanded to stay roadside through a torrential downpour.


The movie has no sexual content, but does reference romantic relationships. Ben's mother, Amanda, discusses with coworkers that she hasn't been on a date in 13 years. In one scene, a customer at the restaurant where she's a waitress has to work up the nerve to ask her on a date. Later, a couple shares a kiss.


Infrequent language with "jackass," and "stupid."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Smitty is an uplifting, emotional tale of intergenerational family redemption that includes the death of a friend and a beloved pet being hit by a car. Additionally, some of the family's circumstances could raise questions about family identity or issues of abandonment. Main character Ben has never known his father, who left before he was born, and everyone's pretty tight-lipped about him. Additionally, Ben's mother's relationship with her own parents is damaged and strained. Ben is arrested, which may require some explanation about the temptations of peer pressure and the legal consequences of his actions.

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What's the story?

After a lifetime of moving around a lot and always being the new kid in school, 13-year-old Ben (Brandon Tyler Russell) is a disrespectful, disobedient, downright petulant brat. So no one is surprised when he falls in with a bad crowd at his latest school, vandalizes a restaurant, and ends up on the wrong side of juvenile court. His options: spend three months on a farm with the grandfather he's never met (Peter Fonda) while hapless single mom Amanda (Mira Sorvino) finishes a nursing degree, or spend three years in juvie. He chooses the farm, and along the way gets his hands dirty, meets a loyal dog, and some hardscrabble characters, including Mr. Smith (Louis Gossett Jr.), who teach him the meaning of hard work, family values, and showing some respect.

Is it any good?

SMITTY is engaging enough; its intergenerational conflict, old-fashioned lessons, and basic plot will sound a lot like the terrific On Golden Pond. Both feature a single mom with a wayward teen who gets straightened out by a grumpy old Fonda who really cares, deep down underneath all that crotchety blowhardiness. It also has all the same sentimentality, but falls considerably short on the comic relief. Unfortunately, that lack of comic relief means the movie's first half feels like an all-too joyless distillation of every thing every old person ever told you growing up about how to act right.

Luckily, it warms up a little on the way out as the characters, and the film, find its way. Kids will enjoy the relationship Ben has with the smart, loyal farm dog, and everyone within earshot will be relieved to see Ben learn, at last, how to say "thanks" and "please" without scowling. Added bonus: Adults of a certain age may also enjoy seeing Peter Fonda nowhere near a motorcycle.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about other films that address values like respecting your elders and following through on your commitments. Can you think of examples?

  • The movie also deals with peer pressure. Have you ever been pressured by so-called friends to do something illegal and against the rules? How did you respond?

  • The dog in the film was adopted from a shelter. Families can talk about the epidemic of stray animals and the good work of humane shelters to find homes for dogs who've been abandoned.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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