Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

23 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Ferris Bueller is a bright high school senior who does everything he can possibly think of just to miss a day of school. He pretends to be sick, fools his parents, and then spends his day off cruising around Chicago with his girlfriend and his best friend. While in Chicago, he does whatever he wants.

No wonder Ferris Bueller, the main character in the fine teenage comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is the most popular guy in school. He has a lot of self-confidence and uses it to do whatever he wants. He has this philosophy: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, states this philosophy right to the camera. Just like Woody Allen’s characters, Ferris Bueller has the freedom to break the fourth wall and speak his mind. At first, it seems like skipping school is all Ferris has on his mind, but there is something more. He’s trying to gain his best friend some self-confidence of his own. His best friend, a wound-up teenager named Cameron (Alan Ruck), is sick and excused from school. He is also in a miserable living environment because his father cares more about his prized possession—a restored red Ferrari—than he does for his own son.

Ferris talks Cameron into helping him steal the Ferrari so they can pick up Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) from school (the excuse: dead grandmother). Together, the three of them spend the day in downtown Chicago—they go to the top of the Sears Tower, see the Board of Trade, have lunch at the Gold Coast, attend a game at Wrigley Field, go to the Art Museum, and see a German-American Day parade in which Ferris leaps aboard a float and has the street dancing to “Twist and Shout” (not a German song, but never mind). The marching band even backs him up on that last one. And a word about that Wrigley Field game—they arrive in the middle of the game and get box seats in the back. I know most kids would rather sit in the bleachers, but do you really think they could find seats in the bleachers when the game is midway?

Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane see the sights of Chicago (all except the Navy Pier, which is a lot of fun—I’ve been there a couple times). But Ferris isn’t just doing this for him—he’s showing his best friend Cameron a good time and how to gain self-respect and self-confidence. In that way, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is not only fun, but it’s sweet. When writer/director John Hughes (“Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink”) focuses on the teenagers, the film really does work. But what doesn’t work so much are the stuff with the adults. The parents aren’t given much to do, except be oblivious to Ferris’ scheme to skip school. Actually, that’s fine. But the school dean Rooney (well-played by Jeffrey Jones) is given a fair amount of screen time and while he’s very funny in the first half while he’s in his office at school, he’s reduced to many slapstick comedy situations once he leaves the school to hunt down Ferris and use him as an example to other students. Those slapstick comedy scenes don’t work, compared to the scenes involving Ferris and his friends. Another adult character is the dean’s secretary (Edie McClurg)—she’s funny and given the right amount of screen time. And she doesn’t leave the school. She’s in her element here.

There’s another character I should mention—Ferris’ twin sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey). Jeanie is trying to bust Ferris, just as much as Rooney. In the end of the film, she develops a brief but interesting relationship with a drug addict played by Charlie Sheen.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a pleasant comedy with a brilliant protagonist and a nice theme of living life to the fullest. We should all be like Ferris Bueller.

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