I think Chris (Ron Howard) missed an important life lesson from his experiences with his dog Smoke. What Smoke showed Chris, but Chris was too busy pouting to see, was how you shouldn’t trust anybody and that when you are literally a red-headed step-child like Chris was in this movie, your best friend will ditch you as soon as he has the chance.
Take the best damn dog in the whole wide world, Smoke, for example. He’s all about sucking up to Chris when Chris is saving his pussy canine ass from certain death. They’re inseparable and we’ve got a couple of montages in the movie to prove it!
Chris and that crazy mutt would do anything for each other and stand toe to toe against any enemy, fighting the good fight, no matter the odds! At least until Smoke’s real owner shows up!
It’s really a great scene because it makes you laugh so hard at what a tool Chris was! You need to understand that throughout the movie, we’ve grown to hate Chris with a burning intensity usually reserved for dictators, bosses, and in-laws.
All Chris does is talk about how he’s old enough to do this or that all the while behaving like he’s a fricking five year old turd! Scowling, sneering, smarting off to his elders, and humiliating his mom in front of her sister by beating down his city slicker cousin (that actually was the only thing Chris did in this movie that didn’t suck – that cousin was ten times the pansy Chris was and deserved every single second of his thumping – he was wearing a cowboy hat for crud’s sake – and he was from the city!), Chris was damn lucky that his step dad Cal was one of those sensitive 1970s movie step dads and not a real life step dad!
For those of you theoretical folks out there that don’t come from broken and emotionally crippled homes, let me break down the concept of the step dad for you. The step dad is the man who likes to screw your mom. And hates you. Because every time he has to look at your ugly mug, it’s time that he’s not screwing your mom.
See, you’re kind of like credit card debt and your mom’s alcohol problem -, excess baggage of your mother’s that your dad only puts up with because screwing your mom is so good. So, just remember when your ass is tasting the strap or your pimply face is being used as an ashtray, it’s nothing personal. It’s just your step dad’s way of saying “I’d rather be screwing the crap out of your mom right now.”
Movie step dad Cal though is all about trying to work through Chris’ issues of having a new dad hanging around. Cal patiently crushes his dream of getting a car by explaining how Chris is too young to go pick fruit in order to save money for the car.
Then he gently pisses on the grave of Chris’ dream of having a dog of his own because the sheep on their ranch won’t like a dog. I was a bit disappointed that Chris didn’t break out the “you love your precious sheep more than me” bomb, but he was pretty good in dropping a nuke on his mom about replacing husbands. Chris also had some nice variations of the classic “you’re not my real dad!” so it wasn’t like we were totally deprived of what we want out of our step dad movies.
Yes, Chris is having problems coming to terms with the change in his life role from “beloved son” to “unwelcome spawn of the whore I want to screw.” His real dad died in a fiery car wreck. Chris saw it all happen since he was also in the car and thrown clear of the wreck, but also thrown right so he could watch his father burn alive. Since then, he’s had a deadly fear of fire.
And because of all this backstory, we immediately wait for the scene where Chris somehow gets himself in another dang fire so he can face his fears, come to terms with what it is to be a man, and reconcile with Cal whose desperate gamble to let Chris come back home on his own terms pays off big time!
So Chris runs away with Smoke in the middle of the night before Smoke’s real owner can come back to claim him and the next thing I know, Chris is running into a burning house saving an old man and an old woman!
After that, Chris calls up Cal and says he wants to come home, but I’m thinking, why bother? You’re a big time hero now, Chris! You don’t need no new fake dad! Hell, you’re already more of a man then he’ll ever be!
The next time he’s in your face about growing up and being mature, you just need to say, “I’m only fifteen! What do you expect to do? Rescue a bunch of old folks from a frigging inferno? Oh wait, I already did that!”
Chris isn’t the only dysfunctional dolt though. Each and every family member is a basket case, wringing their hands over every little stupid thing that happens in their boring life. Is there really any 14 or 15 year old boy who is going to pout and run away like a little baby because of a dog? A dog? Do kids these days even have dogs anymore?
And for all of Cal and Chris talking about feelings, respect, and what it is to be a man, a real man would just punch these two sissies in their mewling faces.
Terminally bland, with no surprises except that Smoke didn’t really get as much screen time as you would have expected, Smoke is 1970s Disney TV movies at their most generic.
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