Classic Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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by Armando Vanegas

I don’t think I ever stopped loving Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in all my time on this earth and if I ever change my pick for my all-time favorite movie, please have me checked out at the nearest hospital because my body was most likely taken over by a body snatcher. I admit there was maybe a short window of time where a part of me that wondered if it wasn’t just nostalgia masking what I might have really felt as there was a lengthy amount of time between viewings then. But the truth is as I got older and I finally revisited it, I still had the same amount of fun that I had growing up with it. It’s still as exciting and exuberant as it was the first time. You guys, this movie holds up a lot on repeat viewings.

Yeah, you can argue I saw it too many times so of course, I would say that. I love this movie so much that I don’t think I’ve had another favorite movie in years. I even have both the VHS and the Blu-Ray copy because I love it that much. With that in mind, it wasn’t much of a surprise that I went to a recent 30th anniversary screening seeing this in theaters was the #1 thing I dreamed of doing as a kid. This particular showing included some cool extras including a new introduction from TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz before the movie and some interviews with the cast after the movie, which was certainly welcome. I even brought my mom, who’s my closest friend and companion, with me to experience it. While it’s still pretty much the same movie growing up, it’s still a treat to see how it was released 30 years ago.
Matthew Broderick still shines in his career-defining performance as Ferris Bueller, a rebellious high school student looking to give his best friend Cameron Frye. While what he does is unethical, he obviously is doing for the best intentions but it also benefits him too. He’s a charming guy and seems to be very cool. I remember having the biggest obsession with him and trying to seek out other movies he was in but nothing comes close to anything he does in this movie. While it’s a rather subdued and relaxed performance that really doesn’t ask that much of him in terms of physicality, he get a lot of charisma from it. Plus, he’s got a friendly enough face to offset the potentially douchier elements of his character. Normally, I find it off-putting when the main character is considered to be the coolest character ever without presenting me any actual flaws. I think that’s probably why the part where he talks about his future really sticks with me because it shows some sign of vulnerability. It’s like he’s past all the high school drama and wants to just move on to the future. That said, I think why it resonates with people even today is because Ferris is so cool that we want to be him although Cameron was an interesting character in his own way due to his personality contrasting with Ferris and he might be who we actually are. Cameron though was probably the funniest of the two but as usual, the people who try to so hard to be funny can also be the ones would have the most amount of baggage to deal with, which is so abundantly clear with the last scene with the Ferrari.

When it gets to that part, it goes really dark and while a lot of this hearsay, Alan Ruck’s performance is enough to make me believe that it happened. He’s probably the most realistic and relatable character, which is good when your main character is the most loved person in Chicago. He’s great for the rest of the movie though because, as like I said before, he can be very funny despite how uptight he acts throughout the story. There was an interesting dynamic with Ferris and Cameron because of Ferris’ optimism and Cameron’s negativity. It’s weird how they’re friends because they’re so different but then again, it is high school and it’s just a comedy and for a comedy to work, you sometimes need two people who might be total contrasts to each other. Having watched this a million times, I’ve just become used to the idea of the them being friends and I think there’s little moments here and there where you can see why they’re friends and why they like each other. For example, they really seemed to have the best time at that baseball game and when they went to eat at the restaurant.

The fact that they’re so different works to show how different they were and to show how Ferris can sometimes be a pain to be around at times. I also really felt bad for him because he seemed to seem the worst home life out of everyone that I understood where he was coming from. Sloane was attractive although she probably didn’t have much to do aside from the whole fake dead relative subplot. Mia Sara playing her is a good actress though as she delivers her lines well enough. She makes some interesting choices with her face especially when we first meet her when Ferris goes to pick her up. I can buy why someone could fall for her with the way she looks.

Mr. Rooney, played by Jeffrey Jones, was an effective antagonist and it was funny to see how far he could take it when he breaks into Ferris’ house. Knowing John Hughes wrote this, one has to wonder that he had so much fun writing this, he felt that it good enough to make this whole sequence as Home Alone. Also on a sidenote: I think Hughes was watching Star Wars as certain aspects are similar with the appearance of the theme and the whole idea of how both Ferris and Rooney don’t meet until the very last part of the movie. He came off exactly like the principals I grew with. He’s very dedicated to his job and he thinks he’s doing God’s work by trying to stop Ferris Bueller from influencing other kids when honestly, kids are going to do what they’re going to do. Seriously, I hear people nowadays say that he’s a hero and just trying to do his job but when you break and enter someone’s house, all signs of being a school administrator competent go out the window.

Edie McClurg as Rooney’s assistant, Grace, always had the right line to say whenever and always got a chuckle out of me with that large mountain of hair she had on her head. She helps to make the fact that Mr. Rooney that his station in life is fact bigger than it actually is funnier than it already is. Every scene with Mr. Rooney and Grace actually reminded me of a mini Alexander Payne movie with the way the act in that it’s not always laughing on the floor funny but there’s something subtly hilarious because of the realness of those scenes. Jeanie, played by Jennifer Grey, was really memorable just because she was really pissed off all the time but you could sympathize with her. Dealing with a brother who you have to live in the shadow of has to be annoying to deal with on a daily basis and the movie does a good job at getting that across. The fact that she was so pissed off was what made her so funny to watch throughout the movie. Her scene with Charlie Sheen might be the best thing he’s ever done in his career as it’s the one thing I best remember him for but that’s what happens when you watch a movie 9 million times. The part where she comes home to find an intruder always stands out to me and it’s also very well edited. Ferris and Jeanie’s parents, Katie and Tom, played by Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward, were sweet people if rather gullible. That’s pretty much the whole point but the actors do a solid job. Apparently, they got married in real life and I can understand because they’re too believable together.

Written and directed by John Hughes, this is my favorite of all his movies although there’s plenty of other movies of his that are awesome. He seems to understand young people and it felt authentic as it could get at times. Plus, the humor seems to mesh very well with the rest of the movie. This is a comedy so all it needs is someone to point and shoot properly but some shots are excellently framed with cinematography by Tak Fujimoto and well edited by Paul Hirsch. There’s a very genuine feeling to it thanks to Hughes’ writing as he seems to understand teenagers and make them easy to connect to. The direction gives it an proper easygoing feeling because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Watching it today and knowing it doesn’t take itself seriously, there’s things in it that probably are impossible like Ferris racing home or the fact that he can hijack a local parade, but this is why we watch movies. We watch them escape and this movie is meant just to lay back and enjoy. The score by Ira Newborn, Arthur Baker, and John Robie is really great and a lot of the licensed tracks are awesome to listen to throughout the music. The overall music do feel very of their time in the best ways possible as they are catchy but Hughes always had good taste in music.
This is just a movie that I can have fun with anytime it’s on. It doesn’t demand too much of me other than just watch these characters have fun in the Windy City. Plus, I feel like it comes from a genuine place and John Hughes really wants you to love these characters. Even if Ferris can be quite the genius when it comes to covering his tracks for his fake sick day, he does seem to really care for Cameron. In some ways, it’s a live action cartoon if a bit toned down because there’s real people and a lot of the situations that Ferris are impossible to get out of. At the same time, it’s not a broad over the top comedy but it’s filled with these really clever lines and moments that I always can get a laugh out of. There’s even these little moments that I find myself catching as I get older and I’m surprised I still find things with the amount of times I’ve seen it. I don’t know if I can say I’m anything like Ferris Bueller as a whole but I was a pretty obedient kid but I think there’s feelings this movie has that I can understand. The tedium of high school with sitting through boring lectures, the uptight school officials, and whatever else is highlighted very well. It has a good lesson about how you should live life to the fullest whenever possible. I didn’t like high school and obviously, these characters don’t either so I can appreciate and relate to it on a different level than I could before. They’re relatable to a degree but it allows itself to have fun whenever possible. That parade scene is probably the best scene ever put to film because anytime it’s on, I just want to get up and dance. Hell, I was even dancing in my seat at the time. It seemed to be so infectious that it made a little girl a few seats away from me dance in her seat. She also started talking at the movie times, which was fine. I’m usually annoyed by this but given how she was reacting to the movie by talking to the screen with such excitement in a way that it didn’t totally take me out of the movie and she wasn’t loud and obnoxious about it, I let it go because it’s great to see young people appreciating the classic. There’s a part of me that wants me to lose faith in all people but this girl made me glad I haven’t yet. I think she got the idea that people like myself and my mom can notice that there’s a lot of fun to be had and that’s all it’s meant to be.

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