#41 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

(1986, John Hughes)

“The question isn’t what are we going to do, the question is what aren’t we going to do?”

I think everyone’s always tried to get themselves a free day off school as a teenager. Hell, even as adults, we all usually want days off work. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is basically every teenager’s fantasy, the ability to sneak a day off school and enjoying yourself as much as possible without any major consequences.

Matthew Broderick plays the titular character, a charming, devious 17-year old with a plan to having the best day of his life, and to do so, he needs to take some time off school. Tricking his parents into believing he’s sick, he grabs his genuinely sick friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and finds a way to pull his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) out of class, and together they go off and live it up. Meanwhile, uptight principal Mr Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is determined to stop his plans by any means necessary.

The movie doesn’t have the most realistic premise in the world, as Ferris manages to get away with murder far too easily, and some of the characters’ actions are just plain silly. But that’s the whole point. The movie is fulfilling the fantasy I mentioned in the first paragraph. As viewers, we live vicariously through Bueller and just forget about the ramifications of it all.

Yet, while the actions themselves aren’t too realistic, the themes behind them certainly are. Initially Bueller seems self-centred and arrogant, as he selfishly drags his friends into his own personal escapade, but underneath all this there’s a theme of close friendship and the transition from adolescence to adulthood. At a few points there are hints that this may be Bueller’s last chance to have as much fun as possible with those he cares about before reality takes hold – which, in a way, makes the silly fantasy nature of the whole thing all the more effective. He even talks about the way his friendship with Cameron may not last as they move into college and jobs later in life, and Sloane picks up on there being ulterior motives to his plotting.

Of course, even without this underlying interpretation to give the film depth, the movie is highly entertaining. John Hughes gained a reputation for producing some seriously great 80s and early 90s comedy romps, and it’s clear from this exactly why, as it’s a stellar example of what he was capable of. The jokes are clever, and even when you expect what’s coming (Bueller hands the keys to Cameron’s father’s car to a shady looking garage attendant, guess what happens next?) the payoff is always able to raise chuckles.

It isn’t even the love letter to the 80s I was expecting. Much of the film remains timeless and could easily be happening during any era. There are plenty of 80s throwbacks in here, but mostly as background details, such as a Simple Minds poster in Bueller’s bedroom. The only thing that betrays the timelessness is the brief musical interlude during a parade scene, which feels like filler.

Of course it isn’t perfect. As stated, sometimes Bueller’s scheme seems far-fetched and based entirely on both his parents and Mr Rooney being a bit stupider than they’d ever be expected to be in reality. It was very similar to what was seen in another John Hughes-penned film, Home Alone, where Kevin’s schemes also rely on the stupidity of the adults around him. There are even frighteningly similar scenes involving a grown man sticking his head through a pet door. Sometimes the believability of these sequences is stretched to breaking point, particularly when Bueller passes by his father on a number of occasions and is ignored.

Overall, Ferris Bueller is a fun comedy with a few minor flaws that is ultimately an entertaining 90 minutes.

Starring Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara & Jeffrey Jones
Written by John Hughes
Produced by John Hughes & Tom Jacobson
Music score by Arthur Baker, Ira Newborn & John Robie
Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto
Edited by Paul Hirsch

Favourite Scene: The car valets drive Cameron’s father’s fancy car through Chicago while the theme from Star Wars plays. What do you mean it’s not awesome?
Scene That Bugged Me: Like Being John Malkovich, a Charlie Sheen cameo distracted me by expecting him to say “winning” at any given moment. God knows how I’m making it through Platoon.

Watch it if: Bueller’s day was your dream in high school
Avoid it if: You actually liked high school

Originally posted on Blogspot Thursday 12 January 2012

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in 1980s, Comedy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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