Theme Song: Some people, mostly nerds or thespians, really like the band Sparks. If you’re stuck talking to one of these Sparks fans, they’ll talk the band up so much you can’t help but be really excited. But guess what? When you get home and try to listen to the USB stick they gave you, the band is super hard to get into. It’s like the aura/attitude of Steely Dan, mixed in with the theatrics of early-Genesis, combined with the music of late-era Pointer Sisters. Seriously, try it. I bet you can’t get into them. I’ve tried multiple times (once). Sparks did the music for Bad Manners. On the Sparks message boards and websites, these songs are categorized as “rarities,” because they were never released on an album.
“Growing Pains” by Sparks. This is the main title theme. It’s synthy and catchy and thereby satisfies the requirements of an 80s movie theme song.
“Motorcycle Midget” by Sparks. I’m convinced they added a scene involving motorcycles as a favor to Sparks, who were looking for a reason to dump this lousy song. The scene is so out of place it’s the only sensible explanation.
Interesting Dated References: Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for movies in which children drink, smoke, swear, and talk about sex.
Best Line: Tweens saying, “cock”; Said by a teenager in reference to the sexual preference of a male wearing an earring — “Right ear: buccaneer. Left ear: queer”. I’d never heard this before and I grew up around trashy kids.
Social Context: Another post-Bad News Bears script, with an even looser sense of comedy. In fact, at times this movie veers into the gross-out absurdity of early John Waters/Troma territory. How much fucking mileage did Hollywood think they could get out of 10-year-old kids smoking and drinking beer? A lot, apparently. It’s basically a whole sub-genre/era and it apparently has three requirements: Prepubescent children must smoke and/or be drunk, prepubescent children must talk crassly about sex, and adults must be totally clueless/drunk and thereby aid in the bad behavior of the children. See also: The Zoo Gang, The Comeback Kid.
Summary: The first thing Piper the orphan does when he arrives at Bleeding Heart catholic orphanage is to hang up a fully nude centerfold next to his bed, which greatly offends his nun escort. This setup is repeated throughout the entire movie: Take a child, make them do something dumb or offensive, have an adult react.
Piper is played by Georg Olden, whom you’d remember if you were a fan of the sitcom Rocky Road. If you’re unfamiliar with Rocky Road, you’re in luck because Georg uploaded most of the episodes to YouTube himself. I watched almost all of them while putting off writing about this movie and it was very enjoyable.
So Piper makes friends with all the other kids, including a black kid named “Blackie,” and Girl Joey, played by Pamela Adlon of Louie and Californication fame. All the child actors do a great job with the material, playing jokes on the orphanage staff and being rebellious.
Martin Mull and Karen Black, as the Fitzgeralds, show up to adopt precocious red-headed Mouse and take him to their obnoxiously 80s house. Both actors fail to deliver either of their particular quirkiness and seem to be trying to adlib with no success. This was right around the time when Mull was on fire with the History of White People… series, but Bad Manners either didn’t give him a lot to work with, or threw him into a situation with no instruction.
Mouse decides he doesn’t want to live with his new family and proceeds to cause havoc. This includes a scene where he takes photos of his sister Sarah showering naked. Sarah is played by Kimmy Robertson of Twin Peaks-fame and seeing her nude is mildly confusing.
The Fitzgeralds try to give Mouse back, but they cannot because of a contract they signed. Do you see how the jokes in this movie are terrible?! Eventually all the kids from the orphanage decide to go free Mouse. There’s a ridiculously long escape and travel sequence that goes on for six hours, featuring smoking and drinking and bad jokes. Once the orphans finally arrive at the house, they take some hostages and demand Mouse’s release.
Instead of anything plausible happening, they steal a car, make all the spoiled rich adults cry, and drive off into the sunset. I seriously have nothing else for you on this one as far as plot summary. Who gives a shit.
– The Fitzgeralds house is wallpapered all over the place. On top of all that, the ceiling of the kitchen is composed entirely of illuminated tiles:
– Jan De Bont (Speed, Twister, Night Warning) was the Director of Photography. Please enjoy these ridiculously complicated tracking/panning shots for a simple slapstick comedy scene:
– At one point near the end, Girl Joey and Piper profess their love for each other and kiss, during which the Fitzgerald family dog jumps on them and starts humping the air. Although played for comedic effect, the filmmakers should have been aware there are grown adults who would consider this type of scene very erotic.
– After going back to pull some screenshots for this movie, I realized I was actually enjoying it, which means I am a total asshole failure who cares about nothing more than sounding like a snob.
Poster and Box Art: The poster is done in caricature-like, Jack Davis style. I was too lazy too upload it (once again).
Availability: You can watch the entire thing right now on YouTube.