Piper (Georg Olden) is a juvenile delinquent who has just arrived in this children's home with a major attitude. The place is already in something of a ruckus, as the kids run riot, but this belies the fact they are ruled with an iron fist by Sister Serena (Anne De Salvo) and her team of ultra-strict nuns and staff, including psychiatrists and orderlies to provide the muscle. Into this world Piper is determined not to make any friends, he is just there to do his time and reject all attempts to get him adopted, his porn star mother (whose explicit picture he has on his locker) having abandoned him some time before. But he does make friends after all, a small gang who do not wish to be split up at any time in the future...
However, their hopes may not play out as they wish in a film that was originally intended to be released by Disney, but apparently they took one look at it and thought nope, not for us. This meant Roger Corman's New World picked Growing Pains up, renaming it Bad Manners, and it was certainly more suited to that company given their propensity for trash; John Waters had for years said he wanted to make a film for a child audience, and you could only wonder whether it would have ended up something like this, a relentlessly bad taste experience that you only imagine was intended for the younger viewer, since the youngsters were the main characters. However, that was without taking into account its jokes.
Which were rather more adult-oriented than almost any of the kids movies around then, before or after, leaving it a highly questionable proposition for parents to park their offspring in front of for an hour and a half's peace and quiet. Nevertheless, that edginess and just plain wrongness managed to stick in the minds of a generation who grew up in the eighties, or a small handful of them who saw this at any rate, and made it, if not a nostalgia piece for the majority, then a guilty pleasure for a tiny minority. Despite all that, the emphasis on bad behaviour may not have been too contentious for the target audience, but the nudity, swearing and violence did come across as very strange, even at the time.
Director and co-writer Bobby Houston, a former actor, apparently knew what kind of film he wished to make, but perhaps a little more self-censorship would have broadened his potential audience, whereas the end result was strong stuff unless that audience wanted to feel as if they were getting away with something by watching it. For most, this wasn't exactly hilarious, but it was never boring as it leaned heavily on the grotesque, and that was the child actors as well as the adults - if anything the adults were even more wrong than the little ones. But Houston was very much on the side of the younglings, therefore the main plotline in amongst this messy production saw Piper and his gang try to rescue Mouse (Michael Hentz), the baby of their group, from the clutches of "eccentric" adoptive parents Karen Black and Martin Mull.
Not because Karen was going to brainwash them into Scientology as it seems today, but because, well, they were absolute weirdos, which in this film was really saying something. Their son (John Paul Lussier) fancies himself a samurai, while their daughter (Kimmy Robertson of Twin Peaks fame) provided the full frontal nudity, but every scene was littered with something inappropriate, often surreally so: setting off the sprinklers in a bus depot kicks off an orgy, not that we see anything more than wild canoodling, and when the gang escape one kid (Christopher Brown) grabs the nurse as a bargaining chip, only for her to cry rape in a manner suggesting she has no problem with that. One of the nuns is seen topless by one of the kids as well. Pamela Adlon, cartoon voiceover artiste extraordinaire, was probably the most famous among the juveniles as the tomboy Joey, with the other main one played by Joey Coleman, whose sole adult credit was for a documentary thirty years later about child sex abuse in Hollywood. That's not the only reason the frankly nutty Bad Manners might make you uneasy, either. Music by Sparks.