Ferris Bueller's Day Off
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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

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Most of us have skipped school for an unauthorized day off. Well, there are those who proudly clutch their perfect attendance certificates but for the rest of us we are no stranger to the concept. There are been more than a few movies about a kid going off the grid to play hooky but there is one that defines this very specific genre; ‘Ferris Bueller's Day Off’. This is the epitome of teen high jinx and free spirited fun. Even after a couple of decades have passed no other film of this type has surpassed or even come close to this one. Even when we take on the responsibilities of adult life there are times when a ball game or some other distraction drives us to taking a personal day or a sick of work day off. The reason why this movie has endure the many years is it speaks to something inside of all of us; the need to resist authority and responsibility and just have a little fun. There is a little piece of Ferris’ spirit that lives in us all and when we watch this film we feel like that teenager again. Of all the many films of the eighties this one holds a special place for a lot of people. If you were a teen at that time you may look at this as the ultimate scam, one you would have loved to pull off. For those of us who were already adults when this movie was released it is another kind of fantasy; a return to the carefree days of youth. None of us would ever think of doing the things in this film but we certainly have thought about it. Paramount is re-releasing this film to DVD again so if this is not part of your movie collection you have another chance to correct that glaring omission.

This film was written, directed and produced by John Hughes. He was the undisputed king of the eighties teen flick and he even gave himself a little cameo in the flick. The story he crafted here is pure whimsy. Ferris, brilliantly played by Matthew Broderick, is an exceptionally bright young man. He just has a bit of a problem with applying himself, particularly with school. Like many very smart kids school bores him and he takes every opportunity to find a way to take some time away from its constraints. If he had only applied his intellect he uses to devise and execute his plans to get out of school to his class work he could have ruled the school. Then again his antics already provided him with that distinction. Hughes may have been in his mid thirties during his reign in teen films but his understanding of kids is nothing short of brilliant. He somehow managed to remember what it was like to be a teen. He has his characters motivated by the usual angst, romance and need to rebel. What makes a Hughes film so special is he never makes his characters into flimsy stereotypes. They are all fully formed human beings. This allowed him to get the teens in the audience identify with the kids in the films. This movie is much lighter hearted than the others in the Hughes catalog but it still contains some very touching moments. Ferris loves his girlfriend and wants to help is belabored best friend. Hughes started his writing career for the National Lampoon. For those unfamiliar with this magazine it represented some the funniest, most intelligent humor and parodies of the time. He took that style of writing and focused it on the teen genre and the rest was history.

As a director Hughes had an unmistakable style. There is an easy going way that he presents a story. Hughes has a specific modus operandi of a rapid introduction to the main characters followed swiftly by setting the main plot points into motion. From there he just sits back and guides a cast he trusts to present the story. The way he paints the adults in the film is a bit unfair when viewed from the advanced age of our perspective. The thing is it works here, as well as other Hughes flicks, because he is focusing on the teen’s point of view. This colors the viewpoint and just adds to the way kids can identify with the characters. By the time teens reach the senior year of high school they have pretty much written off all adults, especially their parents, as all but useless. While this may initially offend any adults watching the sheer joy of this flick will pull you back to your teen years when you were of that same opinion. In this film Hughes tries something that many directors employ but few are able to get away with; breaking the forth wall. Ferris will take a moment out of the story to provide his own views directly to the audience. It happens so naturally here that you get the impression that you know Ferris and he is speaking to you personally. A large part of this is the way that Broderick carries himself in his role. He was a natural for this part. He has the clean cut appearance with the right amount of devilish mischief maker thrown in. He is doing everything you know he shouldn’t but you cheer him on for the sheer audacity of his actions. You wind up wishing you were Ferris. After all he has a beautiful girlfriend, a faithful albeit depressed best friend and is tooling around town during a school day in a primo sports car. What could be better? The story is built around a series of vignettes pulled together by the overall theme of the movie. This allows Hughes to go from one bit to the next seamlessly. Each segment is perfectly timed so no one section is overly long or given a chance to become tiresome.

Ferris Beuller is a high school senior at the upper middle class school in the Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois. He decides that this particular spring day was far too nice to spend in yet another class so he fakes yet another illness to create his own personal skip day. Such a day is much too good to spend alone so he manages to talk his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Frye) to come along. Cameron is a hypochondriac who is experiencing some problems at home so Ferris feels he deserves a break from the mundane routine. He also poses as his girlfriend Sloane’s (Mia Sara) father telling the school that her grandmother died and she will not be in today. The three prepare for a carefree day at large in Chicago. Meanwhile the dean of students, Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is wise to Ferris and wants to get him expelled for all of his unusual absences. Ferris is just a little smarter and hacks into the schools’ computer to erase his attendance record. In the course of the day they crash a fancy French restaurant, attend a ball game and destroy the prize car.

This film is priceless. It is not only one of the best in the Hughes collection but one of the best the eighties had to offer. This is part of the Paramount release set called ‘I Love the Eighties’ and it is a must have for collectors of all ages and just about anyone who wants to have a little fun watching a movie. The video is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The color palette has held up fairly well although it is not as vibrant as more recent films. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is full-bodied with a concentration on the front speakers; the eighties music here sounds very good in this format. There is only one extra provided but it is great. There is a commentary track by Hughes where he details the production of the film. Although there are some themes and language in the film that is a bit mature it does make for a fairly family friendly flick. This is the eighties in a nut shell so get it and have a little fun.

Posted 07/19/08

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