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And She Smiles a Lot

To dislike Savannah Smiles is to dislike small children – and puppies. Savannah Smiles uses both to a syrupy sweet effect. Like a kid or a puppy self-aware of their own adorableness, so too is this movie.

During this family comedy romp, you’ll get charming screwball comedy, outwitted police, childish antics, and a bit of movie criminality that dodges any chance of offensiveness. Even the PG-rating affixed to this one is severe.

At Savannah Smiles heart is Bridgette Andersen, full of vigor as a small child seeking an escape from parents who ignore her. She’s an absolute delight on screen, charming and spunky without feeling artificial. This girl had screen presence.

Savannah Smiles fits the mould of an NBC Saturday Night Movie, where the script seems a best fit

The rest? That’s all movie fiction. A bumbling pair of crooks enact a Laurel & Hardy routine, inadvertently tasked with caring for Savannah when she jumps into their getaway car. In time, the two, Boots & Alvie, turn from hardened criminals on the lam to a bickering married couple concerned for their (not) adopted daughter. There’s Savannah’s real father, a US congressman, rich in voter support and dollars if not much else. He’s a cartoon variation on the overworked father trope. The mother is no better.

Savannah Smiles spits out a warm, well concentrated message of appreciating others and how being rich isn’t a solution to anything. Savannah smiles more in her time with the escapees than with her rich parents. For added emphasis, cinematography isolates Savannah in her mansion-esque home. In Boots & Alvie’s makeshift abode, there’s visual closeness; they spend time together, in tight proximity. A small touch, if one vital to making this predictable crowd-pleaser work.

It’s routine overall, certainly rudimentary and safe. Savannah Smiles fits the mould of an NBC Saturday Night Movie. The simple script seems a best fit for TV. That Savannah Smiles found theatrical distribution is a surprise. Some Utah location shooting and soft country on the soundtrack elevate the production values slightly. Still, it’s tiny and simple family escapism, the type now that would earn a “Dove Seal of Approval” stamp on the box. Lucky then it has Savannah.


MVD makes note of a new 2K transfer, but the end results do not reach flattering heights. Savannah Smiles looks rather decrepit. Pulled from a release print, dismal fidelity and clumpy grain look multiple generations removed from the negative. That 2K scan doesn’t make a visible dent in the murkiness.

Down the right edge of the frame, a persistent series of scratches continues for the entire run time. Reel markers pop up frequently. All manner of dirt and scratches impede the imagery. This print saw better days in a past life.

Color is still prominent though, the best aspect of this transfer. Saturation and density remain high, especially flesh tones and the greenery of the mountain scenery. Contrast pops in to help, rich and bright. Black levels do crush on occasion. A few moments slip by and fall into a murky gray. In the greater consideration of this transfer however, a few spots of gray barely register.


It appears the damage to the print is 1-to-1 in terms of audio/video. Dialog hisses as is comes through, strained and lacking punch. Popping and static is a common issue.

Only the score offers genuine clarity, with the pop songs offering acceptable highs and a decent bass line. Vocals survive intact too.


The Making of Savannah Smiles begins a small yet robust bonus package. This 28-minute feature finds three of the creative team and Andersen’s mother to discuss the project individually. Andersen’s mother returns to talk about her daughter’s short life in a separate 21-minute piece, a fine tribute. Finally, the soundtrack composer Ken Sutherland delves into his work for 16-minutes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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It’s hard to dislike Savannah Smiles and the slew of happiness streaming in, with an adorable kid holding a puppy alongside slapstick comedy.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

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