Corey Haim Dies At 38: 'Lucas' Was Much More Than Teen Idol Fare : Monkey See Corey Haim, who died today at 38, had a pretty spotty career, but if you've seen Lucas, you know he was the real deal.
NPR logo Corey Haim Dies At 38: 'Lucas' Was Much More Than Teen Idol Fare

Corey Haim Dies At 38: 'Lucas' Was Much More Than Teen Idol Fare

Corey Haim, seen here in his "teen idol" period, died today at 38. Warner Bros/Kobal Collection hide caption

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Warner Bros/Kobal Collection

In early reports that actor Corey Haim had died, I saw him referred to as an '80s "teen idol" who had appeared in The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys? Really? Because yes, that's true, but I never think about The Lost Boys. I never think about the dumb reality show he was on, and I never think about License To Drive or any of the other dopey projects he got involved in, and I try not to think about the way he kept showing up in the news in recent years with all kinds of obviously severe personal and medical problems.

I think almost exclusively about Lucas, which came out in 1986 and is one of my absolute favorite high-school movies.

Written and directed by David Seltzer, who's never done anything else I particularly cared about, Lucas has plenty of formula elements -- a climactic football game, a wildy corny ending, a bookworm with big glasses -- but it's much, much better than it should be, because everybody in it gets to be an entire person. Lucas (played by Haim, who was about 14 at the time) is a geek, yes, but he's a strangely fearless geek with a streak of defiance that you just know is going to get him beaten up over and over again. Lucas is a really sublime invention, and whatever happened to Corey Haim later, he was great in this movie. (Said Roger Ebert at the time: "He creates one of the most three-dimensional, complicated, interesting characters of any age in any recent movie.")

I don't even want to give away the plot, which really does go in some surprising directions (and some unsurprising ones), but in addition to opportunities to spot some actors very early in their careers -- this is early Charlie Sheen, it's Jeremy Piven's first movie, it's Winona Ryder's first movie -- it will give a lift to your favorite high-school oddball. It's soulful the way a formula high-school movie is occasionally lucky enough to be soulful, by getting absolutely everything right.

Things never went this well for Haim again, ever, but forget The Lost Boys -- I always think of the guy as a real actor, simply because he's in this movie.