Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Release Date: June 11th, 1986 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: John Hughes Actors: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Cindy Pinkett, Lyman Ward, Kristy Swanson
ne of John Hughes most beloved and popular comedies, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” concentrates on the exploits of a high school kid’s world and the mayhem of adolescence – a topic the director’s earlier ‘80s features chronicled with careful attention. And yet in this amusing portrait of teenage life, the typical complications and angsts are given a more comical and lighthearted tone. Tossing in themes of escapism (Bueller does what everyone else only dreams of), rebellion against the system, brushing off and bamboozling authority figures, and being the center of attention, the film is a rollicking rapture and a transport to nostalgic days of envious, adventuresome (and perhaps entirely fantastical) youth.
Teenager Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) wakes up one morning and decides he needs a day off to take in all the wonders of Chicago; he suddenly realizes how fast-paced life is and he’s defiantly opposed to missing a single transformative moment. Although it’s his ninth absence from school, he wants this day to count. He starts by faking an illness, then proceeds to recruit his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his dad’s Ferrari, and plots to excuse his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) from class, to hit the town with his entourage in style. Meanwhile, his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) fumes at the idea that Ferris can get away with such nonsense, while the cynical school principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) vows to personally catch Bueller, hoping to make an example of the boy and put “one hell of a dent in his future.”
Right off the bat, after Ferris acts out his undefined, phony illness, he turns to the camera and speaks to the audience. He explains exactly how to recreate the zaniness of his actions in the film, giving the show a how-to vibe and a personal factor that teases viewers to participate. His feats are the stuff of dreams, from fooling the principal into releasing Sloane on the grounds of a grandmother’s death, to nabbing a sports car and carelessly cruising around in it, to joining a float in a parade and taking the spotlight in a citywide musical dance number. By today’s standards, he may not be getting away with anything devastating, but the significance is his attempt and success. Why should he get away with it? Because we all want to, but can’t. Jeanie spends the majority of the film fed up with his tomfoolery and frequently tries to spoil the fun (eventually landing her into the hilariously reasoning arms of the drug-related, police station prisoner Charlie Sheen). In the realm of Bueller, obedience is boring and the powers that be are the opposition.
Ben Stein is only onscreen for a few moments but gives his most memorable performance as a hopelessly boring, monotonic teacher, while pinheaded secretary Grace (Edie McClurg) provides a perfectly hilarious contrast to the fuming Rooney. The supporting cast, the main players, and a singular script of revolution against convention allows “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to capture the spirit of crazy carefree youth, along the lines of “American” Graffiti” but with a creative zest in tune with updated 80’s audiences. The inventiveness goes further with stylish changes in mood, music, locations, and attitudes as Ferris and crew visit a museum, watch a ball game, and swindle their way into a fancy restaurant. Everything works for Ferris, giving his enemies something to despise and his fans something to celebrate. Authority, Responsibility and Duty want Ferris stopped because he gives good kids bad ideas. But the rest of the world thinks he’s one righteous dude.
– Mike Massie