Lucas (1986)

Written and Directed by David Seltzer

I knew there would be one, and quite honestly I’m not surprised it was this film. I knew when I assembled my list of football movies to marathon that at least one movie would not really be a football movie. Lucas is not really a football movie, but rather a movie that has football in it. For much of the film I was asking myself what to do about this movie. It’s fine from the context of, well whatever other criteria you’d like to use, but how would I rationalize keeping it in my marathon, other than the fact I had listed it and I had watched it. By the end, there is enough football to get it by, but in reality this is a coming of age high school movie about a shy, brilliant young boy experiencing things for the very first time, and getting to know what it takes to stand up for yourself and be a man, however you’d like to define that versus how society seems to want to define it.

Lucas (Corey Haim) is impossibly shy, but one summer day he comes across a beautiful girl named Maggie (Kerri Green), a new kid to the town. The first person she’s met, Maggie becomes close friends with Lucas, who seems to want to hide most everything about who he really is for fear of being ridiculed. Once school starts, however, Lucas’ worst fears are realized when the bullying continues from most of the popular kids in the school. His one ally is Cappie (Charlie Sheen), a football player who finds Lucas to be too nice and good of a kid to not try to protect like an older brother. But once Lucas sees Maggie and Cappie becoming closer, his jealousy drives him to try to be more macho, even trying to play football. His love for Maggie drives him to try to become a different person, not the person Maggie became friends with over the summer.

Odd that a movie like this would be the one to challenge me to define what makes a football movie, let alone what makes a good football movie. Thus far in the marathon, there has been very little to be excited about when it comes to good movies, and even while compiling the list I remarked how it seemed there were very few great football movies, based on what I had seen or reputation alone. Then Lucas comes along and surprises me and disappoints me at the same time. It has the dubious distinction of being a movie that is quite good, then becomes a football movie, then becomes quite bad. The film soars when exploring the tenuous relationship between Lucas, a good-hearted, smart boy, and his classmates in high school. But it soon becomes just another stock jock movie once it moves in the direction of football. Maybe there is something about the sport which just inherently turns me off of it.

At its core, this is a movie about being nice to each other. High school is a difficult place to coexist with other teenagers, so Lucas’ example of simply being nice to people should be applauded, and having an ally in people like Cappie and Maggie is invaluable, if a little unlikely for Lucas. His charm and personality win them over, even in the face of so many others being bullies. The romance/friendship between Lucas and Maggie is all too real as well. Sometimes that sort of love is not reciprocated, despite our best efforts. We search for a reason, thinking we have done everything right to deserve another’s love, only to find out that sometimes there is nothing we can do, and nothing is more frustrating. The emotional punch this movie provides in the relationships it creates is really authentic and startling. It is the strength of the movie.

But as I said, then comes the macho competition. Seeing Lucas try to live up to the same persona as Cappie, a good looking, athletic guy, is painful to watch, as real as the sentiment may be. As a result, the scenes in which Lucas is thrown onto the football field to prove himself are laughably choreographed. This movie deserves a better third act, or at the very least better football scenes, but I’m not sure that was ever in the cards given the rest of the movie and the physical limitation of Corey Haim/Lucas. That being said, while the football leaves a rather sour taste in my mouth at the end of the movie, the strong relationships and characters which were crafted throughout the film are more than enough to make Lucas and enjoyable movie. I just wish I could count it as a win for football movies, but also, this is not really a football movie afterall.

★★★ – Good

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