Since the death of his mother and sister in a car crash, Steve Michaels, 16-years-old, has had a tough life. At school, he is nicknamed ""Wart,"" after his father ""Toad"" (so named for the warts on his hands), who's a strict, almost universally disliked biology teacher. Steve is also a ""dirt"" (""On the average, dirts drink more, smoke more, skip more classes, and study less than most kids""); passing only his auto-mechanics class, he must bring up his average in order to be accepted into a special vocational ed. program. Tensions are high on the home front as well. Uptight Mr. Michaels is haunted by the memory of his dead wife and daughter (once knocking their photographs to the floor in a drunken fall), and takes it out on Steve. Michaels sneers at his son's lack of discipline, his ""dirt"" friends, and his blue-collar aspirations. But a series of fortuitous confrontations and crises conveniently solves all: mother and sister are finally laid to rest, Steve gets a girlfriend and his vocational program, Dad wisely changes jobs, and the two begin to accept each other. ""So many things that had once seemed very important now seemed very small."" While some of the scenes between father and son have dramatic power, for the most part this is static, sappy, and relies much too heavily on contrivance. Perhaps this is most outrageous when Steve brings peace between arch-enemy dirts and jocks: after he and the star football player are forced to paint a storeroom as punishment for fighting, they unite to perform emergency CPR on the stricken assistant principal. In sum, oversentimental and marred by a resolution that's far too pat.