Savannah Driscoll (Brigette Andersen)is the 7 year old daughter of wealthy gubernatorial candidate, Richard Driscoll (Chris Robinson). Savannah, feeling terribly lonely and neglected by her self-absorbed parents, dashes a note and runs away. Two small-time crooks, Boots (Donovan Scott) and Alvie (Mark Miller), on the lam after a slapstick-style prison break, steal the car in which Savannah has chosen to hide. Savannah's "run away" note falls out of sight, so the police, with the exception of Lt. Savage (Michael Parks) immediately assume kidnapping. The police call in "ace tracker" Harland Dobbs (Peter Graves, in hilarious deadpan "dimwit detective" role). Meanwhile, Alvie, Boots and Savannah find a hideout. While Boots takes care of Savannah, Alvie, who hates children (and just about everybody else) becomes involved with Doreen (Carol Wayne, Carson's "Matinee Lady"), an attractive, spectacularly built waitress and part-time country singer. Desiring to satisfy Doreen's innocent dreams, Alvie ransoms Savannah. However, Boots' "nurturing instincts" are aroused, and he wants to reform.
Despite some thin spots in the middle, this is a surprisingly powerful movie. As we learn more about Alvie, we come to sympathize with his character, making the "near Ruby Ridge-style" climax of this movie all the more gut wrenching. I can barely think about this film without choking up. The cast is uniformly outstanding, most notable being Mark Miller (father of Penelope Ann), Pat Morita, Carol Wayne and Michael Parks (a character similar to THE X FILES Muldar). Brigette Andersen (granddaughter of child star Jackie Coogan) is adorable. Tragically, Andersen died from a drug and alcohol overdose at age 22.
The late porn star, Savannah, took her stage name from this movie, an admittedly "dubious" distinction. Apparently SAVANNAH SMILES has affected a lot of people. If you DO show it to your children, WATCH it with them. You may look at the world in a slighter brighter way when you are done.
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