October 25, 1999

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Paramount Home Video

102 mins. · PG-13
16x9 · 2.35:1

Format
DVD

Audio
E
French

Subtitles
English

Extras
Commentary track

Starring
Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Ben Stein

Review by
Bill Evenson


Rating



(1986)

When I was at tech school in 1989, everybody called me Ferris. Supposedly I look like Matthew Broderick, but I don’t see it. Supposedly I also act like Ferris Bueller, which I suppose I don’t mind as much. I know they were picking on me, but I took it as a compliment. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Matthew Broderick, as Ferris Bueller, is almost superhuman. He’s the most popular guy in the world. And why not? He’s clever, witty, and a little magical. This movie is about when this amazing guy decides to take a day off from high school with his best friend, the emotionally disturbed Cameron, played expertly by Alan Ruck, and his girlfriend, the typical gorgeous sweetheart Sloane, played by Mia Sara.

Writer-director John Hughes had already made Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club by 1986, and it seemed like there was no stopping him. For teenagers in the eighties, John Hughes movies were perfect fantasy worlds where anything can happen. This is brought to a head in Ferris Bueller’s Day off, in which not only can anything happen, but Ferris Bueller himself can make virtually anything happen. Ferris hacks into the school’s computer to change his attendance figures. He sets up clever ways of convincing his parents and others that he’s staying home from school because he’s terribly ill. He even talks to the camera. This little device has been way overused in TV shows, but when Ferris did it, it was still somewhat original.

His nemesis in this movie is Ed Rooney, the principal at Ferris’ high school, played by Jeffrey Jones. Rooney just knows that Ferris is faking his illness to skip a day of school, and he’s determined to catch Ferris in the act of truancy. He goes way overboard in his pursuit, visiting arcades and even Ferris’ home. He’s a high school principal, but he hates kids, and he’s out to get them. This type of character was also seen in Hughes’ Breakfast Club. The John Hughes principal is a way-over-the-top character, but when I was in high school, I really felt like some of my teachers and principals hated me. I wouldn’t have been too surprised to see one of them peeking in my windows trying to catch me goofing off.

This is really the point of the movie, the perspective that a high school kid has about life. Why do I have to go to school all day when there are so many other things I could be doing? Ferris Bueller takes this to the extreme and does everything you can imagine in one day. I mean, the guy must travel at the speed of light to visit a parade, a museum, a baseball game, and a few other places and still end up in his bed at the end of the day pretending to be sick when his parents get home. Ferris goes out and has a really great time, and we come with him and have a great time, too.

The movie has its serious moments, too, and most of these revolve around the rubber-faced Cameron. Ferris convinces Cameron to come out on his adventure, even though Cameron is deathly ill. He convinces Cameron to take out his father’s car for the day, even though Cameron feels that his father loves the car more than he does Cameron. That’s where the movie sometimes has a little weight, when Cameron’s relationship with his father comes up. These scenes are handled expertly by Hughes in this movie. I don’t think it would wreck the movie for you to let you know beforehand, the car is doomed. And watching Cameron deal with the death of the car is a really special screen moment.

By contrast, Ferris’ relationship with his parents is just as distant. Yet, somehow, with Ferris, it’s okay. His parents are distant, so he just takes advantage of them in order to do what he wants. They’re blissfully unaware of all that Ferris goes through on this big day off, and, we assume, the same could probably be said for any other day, as well. But his parents love him. I mean, he says it right to the camera, so we just accept it. It’s a John Hughes movie, so deal with it.

Jennifer Grey plays Ferris’ angry, resentful sister, Jeannie Bueller. She went on to great success in Dirty Dancing, then got plastic surgery done on her nose that rendered her virtually unrecognizable. She was basically unheard from for years, but has recently resurfaced on a television show playing a washed-up actress named Jennifer Grey who can’t get acting roles because of a nose job that rendered her virtually unrecognizable. I swear I’m not making this up.

Every minute of this movie contains one special performance or another. Rooney’s secretary, played by Edie McClurg, is great. Charlie Sheen makes an appearance, one of his first moments on the big screen. Ben Stein, of Comedy Central’s "Win Ben Stein’s Money" is one of Ferris’ teachers, exemplifying why he wants to stay away form school. His monotone roll call "Bueller...Bueller...Bueller..." is still probably his most famous moment. Even his friends probably still call him "that Bueller, Bueller guy."

The movie is presented in its original theatrical 2:35 widescreen format, enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The transfer is just excellent without speckles or other distracting defects. The colors are great, the blacks are deep, and highlights are well balanced, creating a great looking presentation. When Rooney gets stuck in the mud outside Ferris’ house, you really get a good look at how gross the situation really is. You almost feel for the guy. The compression is also flawless without signs of pixelation or chroma noise.

The film’s audio is available in a great sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. The soundtrack is actually pretty cool. "Twist and Shout", off of the Beatles first album, hit the top ten singles chart in America over twenty years after its release, due to its inclusion in this film. English and French stereo tracks are also available through the disc’s menu, with optional English subtitles

The only extra is a John Hughes commentary track, which is a great track. Hughes is full of anecdotes and tidbits about the making of the film. For instance, I didn’t even know that Ferris’ parents in the movie went on to get married in real life. Some people might be disappointed by the lack of a lot of extras, but the commentary track and the great 16x9 enhanced transfer and 5.1 audio track more than make up for it. You know you loved this movie, so go get a copy of the DVD already.

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