Lucas (1986)

15 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I have seen many high school movies in which the jock gets the cheerleader, the class brain is harassed, and the football team wins the big game at the end. However, with “Lucas,” it is as if I have never seen it before. What I mean is that this is truly an original high school movie with teenagers not full of lust, selfishness, and hate. Those three traits are what Hollywood filmmakers think every teenager has. For “Lucas,” what we have here is something really special—that very first feeling of falling in love.

Lucas (Corey Haim) is a truly original character. He is a teenager who doesn’t look old enough for high school (“I’m accelerated,” he proudly states), wears thick glasses, is shorter than the other teenagers at school, and is really a sweet kid. Every day, he goes into the fields to look at insects—he does not collect them, only looks at them. He’s also sort of an outcast because his mouthing off about useless information makes him the butt of the football team’s jokes.

One day, Lucas walks near a tennis court and sees her—we all know “her;” she’s that girl we all see for the first time and start to fall instantly in puppy love with. The girl’s name is Maggie (Kerri Green) and she is astonishingly beautiful. Lucas meets Maggie and not only is she beautiful; she is also smart. They soon begin talking. Lucas becomes sort of a guidance counselor to her—saying that sports and cheerleading are just superficial. The two soon become fast friends. They play tennis, they have nice little talks, they even listen to classical music from inside a sewer tunnel. Lucas is deeply in love with Maggie, but she is two years older than him. Maggie sees him as a real good friend and declares him “special.”

Things go great until school starts. Other teenagers are out to make Lucas miserable and Maggie starts to fall for Cappie (Charlie Sheen), the captain of the football team. Then, she considers trying out for cheerleading. Soon, Maggie and Cappie go together to the school dance. That makes Lucas jealous. Therefore, he tries out for the football team to see if he will make an impression.

The film centers on the Lucas character—he’s not like one of those cute-boy roles who just look at the camera as if saying “Aren’t I cute?” He sports thick glasses, is skinny, and has a gift for talking himself into situations where he doesn’t belong. Corey Haim, who plays the kid, is excellent for the part. He gives us one of the most interesting and complicated portrayals of a teenager I’ve ever seen. Haim is wonderful as Lucas. Also, the other two main actors in this movie are Kerri Green (“The Goonies”) as Maggie the loved one and Charlie Sheen as the football captain. They’re both effective as well. Green gives a wonderful performance as sweet, sensitive Maggie and Sheen gives a nice surprise to his character in an especially effective performance. His character of the popular jock is original because he isn’t played as the jerk that practically rubs everything into everyone’s face and wins the heart of the girl with his position in the game. Instead, the original part and the surprising aspect is that he likes Lucas. He protects him from the bullies at school and does what he can to keep him from getting hurt and while he won Maggie away from Lucas, he still cares for the kid’s feelings. Sheen is given the most difficult role in the film and he pulls it off big time. All three performances by Haim, Green, and Sheen really make this film work.

The performances aren’t the only things that make “Lucas” work. There are many scenes in this movie that are just so well-written and so well-directed, it’s just so hard to decide which one is the best. Almost every scene in this movie works with great dialogue, terrific characterization, and excellent performances. The last half of the movie worries us a little because it revolves around the “big game.” Of course when a movie talks about football and has a couple of scenes of football practice, you’d expect a “big game.” And of course, you’d expect the underdog to impress the girl by winning the game and getting the respect he deserves and then, the credits start to roll. But you’d be wrong. As it turns out, the “big game” succeeds far from falling into predictability. What a relief too.

Director/writer David Seltzer has given us a real terrific piece of work. He obviously knows that not all teenagers are full of lust, selfishness, and vulgarity, but that there are a lot that are actually sensitive, innocent, and vulnerable. When the kids in this movie talk, we’re actually interested in what they have to say. “Lucas” is smart, funny, sweet, non-condescending, non-vulgar, and very well-done with the three great performances, well-executed sequences, and a terrific script. I love this movie.

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