Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgThe simple tale of how a high school senior spent one glorious spring day playing hooky after faking an illness. It doesn’t sound like a saga destined for greatness, but Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has become iconic. Perhaps it’s lead actor Matthew Broderick’s delicate balancing act. He gleefully inhabits a character that is a smug smartass, yet we are delightfully happy to see him succeed.

He urges his buddy Cameron Frye to borrow his Dad’s prized sports car then manipulates the administration into releasing his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) for the day. News of Ferris’ infirmity grows. We are made aware of the public’s concern for the boy’s health at various moments during the chronicle. Apparently news of his sickness has spread far and wide in the school and throughout the city. People really like this boy. Definitely not in the Ferris Bueller fan club is Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) who makes it his mission to prove the truant boy is not really sick. Ferris’ sarcastic sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) is also not taken in by her brother’s shenanigans. Her brother’s ability to go unpunished for his many misdeeds, provokes a hilarious mixture of outage and jealousy in her. Grey also registers considerable chemistry at the police station with a dangerous rebel played by Charlie Sheen.

John Hughes would go on to write bigger hits (Home Alone). But of everything he directed, this was his biggest box office success. It’s easy to see why. Part of what makes this comedy so winning is the utter innocence of it all. Ferris’ indulgences comprise of nothing more than trips to a fancy restaurant, the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Ferris famously crashes a parade celebrating German-American culture. His lip-synch to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” is a highlight. Indeed the spectacle was enough to push the hit back onto the Billboard Top 40 charts back in 1986. Music figures prominently in inspired bits elsewhere. An instrumental version of The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” at the museum is fittingly poetic. And nothing underscores a teen’s desire to drive a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder convertible more perfectly than “Oh Yeah” by Swiss electronic band Yello. The song has become a symbol of want.

For anyone who was in high school when this came out, the production will resonate even more as pure nostalgia. Much of the teen movie is well crafted lightweight fun. But as the film’s final coda unfolds, Ferris’ altruistic motives become apparent. His objective to help his best friend achieve a deeper sense of self-worth resonates long after the movies fades.

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19 Responses to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

  1. GaryLee828 Says:

    I like John Hughes’ films “Vacation”, “Sixteen Candles” and “Some Kind of Wonderful”, but I never cared for Ferris Bueller. I think I just found the whole thing too far-fetched and over the top; like everything Bueller attempted worked perfectly and I just had a hard time buying into the story. It just seemed as if Bueller thought he was really cute, cool and slick and that came across annoying and pretentious to me.

    I probably would have liked Ferris Bueller a great deal more had Anthony Michael Hall played Ferris Bueller! lol.

    AMH embodied so many of Hughes’ characters so well. Had Ferris been a little more dorky like AMH’s characters and less cocky I think I would have liked the character more. Nothing wrong with a little cocky, think Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, but you have to be careful not to cross that line and come across pretentious.

    Nonetheless, good to see some retro-reviews over here. I know a lot of people did like this one and will share your sentiments. 🙂

    • It’s a teen fantasy – the guy every boy wants to be and the guy every girl wants to be with. None of it was ever meant to be very realistic. I mean Ferris Bueller even breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience in order to frequently explain his thoughts. So yeah it’s totally far-fetched, but that’s part of what makes it so great.

  2. I like that poster you tagged on.

    Nice review. It’s a great high school movie for sure.

  3. I was about the same age as Ferris when this film was released, so the fantasy of being able to break all the rules and get away with it resonated with me quite a lot. I also thought the casting was perfect and that made it more fun for me to go along for the ride.

  4. Wow. I’d forgotten how funny this movie was. I am so glad I saw this again. I really love the scenes with Mrs. Poole, his sister Jeanie and especially the parade scene. So much fun. I would have to give this 4 1/2 stars.

    • Edie McClurg played Mrs. Poole on The Hogan Family. Her name was Grace here. Incidentally I remember I first saw her in the original Carrie as one of the teen girls in the gym class.

  5. This is truly a classic from my teen years. Loved the review. It’s funny, in many ways we the audience fall under Ferris’ spell. We could easily dislike the guy, but his manipulative and intoxicating personality sucks us in.

    Broderick is fantastic. I also thoughts Jones was hilarious. He’s a guy that could be so funny. Too bad he was such a bad guy in reality. Oh, I have to throw in that I had such a crush on Mia Sara after first seeing this as a teen. 😉

    • Yeah what about that Jeffrey Jones, huh? I try and not think about that nasty stuff when I watch this. Sometimes you can know too much about a person.

      Fun Fact: Mia Sara is married to Brian Henson, oldest son of Muppets creator Jim Henson.

  6. And again agreed. I just recently rewatched this one, too, actually, and, as always, thoroughly enjoyed it. Such a fun comedy.

  7. Great review man. I watched this yesterday and it just gets better every time. Love the relationship and dynamic between Ferris and Cameron though – powerful stuff as you said!

  8. What lighthearted fun. The ultimate day off to aspire to. This film’s scenes in iconic Chicago locations struck me so intensely, that they inspired me to see as many as I could for myself when I traveled there. Although my circumstances for being in those places were very different, that didn’t stop me from feeling like I was experiencing in the same type of memorable adventure that Ferris shares with his friends on this movie’s magical day.

  9. A classic. John Hughes was a great director. So great that I’m still having trouble believing he’s gone.

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