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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Film review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), directed by John Hughes

In 1980s cult movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we meet charismatic, clever and tech-savvy teenager Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) who doesn’t fancy going to school one day, so he starts by convincing his parents how incredibly ill he is. His sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey, the year before she hit the spotlights in Dirty Dancing) doesn’t believe him for a second.

Finally having achieved his mission (to have his parents call him in sick), Ferris decides to phone a friend, namely his best buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck, later famous for his role as Stuart in Spin City), who is a sickly and very serious young man. Ferris reckons he should lighten up a bit. Mainly because he happens to have a car, which Ferris doesn’t, and if you’re going to have fun you need a car.

Together, they bust Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, who to me is always going to be Annie/Elyssa in Time Trax) out of school by pretending to be her father, and off they go to have the best day ever. In Cameron’s dad’s preciously restored – and very expensive – Ferrari …

Meanwhile, school principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is not a happy bunny. He too thinks there’s something fishy with Ferris’s illness (which is causing the school pupils to rally to raise money for his alleged kidney transplant) and knowing the young man’s attendance record, he sets out to try and catch Bueller in the act. Lots and lots of cringeworthy slapstick ensues.

A bonus is to see Charlie Sheen as “Boy in Police Station”, talking to Jeanie. The irony of the following exchange is superb:

Sheen: Drugs?
Jeannie: Thank you, no. I’m straight.
Sheen: I meant, are you in here for drugs?
Jeannie: Why are you here?
Sheen: Drugs.

There are two things that I kept thinking about when watching this film (I’ve seen it once before, but it was like a decade ago at least). First one was that Jeanie’s efforts to try and bust her brother must have inspired the creators of Phineas & Ferb years later. Her attempts at bringing her brother’s actions to the attention of her mum are continually foiled, just like those of Candace. Okay, Ferris isn’t exactly building rollercoasters in the back garden, he’s just pretending to be ill to skive off school, but still.

The second was how similar the plot is to Bengt Linder’s books about Dante and Tvärsan. I doubt anyone outside Sweden would’ve even heard of them (and only a few in Sweden would too, probably), so I’ll explain. The books in question are extremely whimsical mysteries primarily written during the 1970s, and there are 30-odd of them, published as green-backed Wahlströms books for teens.

Dante (the clever one) and Tvärsan (the goofy sidekick) are a couple of teenage boys in Stockholm who don’t care much for school and therefore spend most of the time out of it – and end up getting involved in solving crimes instead (talking the heads off anyone in their way, in a way that would make the Warner siblings proud), while trying to dodge their bemused teacher. Over the years, I have managed to get hold of most of these books, and read them with ill-hidden glee. They’re fab! Incredibly silly, yes, but marvellous, none the less. Linder knows very well how to play with the sounds of a language. Dante has an older sister too, and they don’t exactly get along. If Ferris Bueller had his own Secret Club and fought mysteries (and thought girls were kinda icky), he’d be an American version of Dante.

Considering Dante, and the fact that I’ve now manage to work in two of my favourite animated series as well, should one conclude that I love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? No, one should not.

It’s an okay film, and while I sympathise with them for having absolutely awful teachers (“Anyone? Anyone?”), I still don’t think being bored is an excuse not to get an education. Add to that, Ferris doesn’t exactly behave like a friend to Cameron when talking him into taking his dad’s precioussssss car, and other things, such as getting him to come over in the first place. He’s being an obnoxious bully, if anything, and that’s not the sort of friend I’d like to hang out with.

I also don’t get how principal Rooney is supposed to be funny, but then again, I also don’t think Mr. Bean is funny, because that sort of humour just doesn’t appeal to me. (People tripping and falling over in home videos? Not funny. Falling over bloody hurts, people! Pain isn’t funny!) The slapstick works quite well in the setting of this movie, however, and overall, it’s an okay film. It’s amusing enough and the characters learn and grow from their experiences. Still wouldn’t give it more than maybe 2.5 out of 5 sick notes, with hugs to Cameron.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) where she lives with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted on the way.

6 thoughts on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

  1. I think the reason I loved it was that I was a teenager when I saw it. Not sure what I’d think about it if I saw it for the first time at this age, suspect I wouldn’t like it as much. But when first viewing it at the age of 15, it was great fun. Plus it was a rite of passage back then to watch all John Hughes movies… 🙂

  2. I also have fond memories of this movie–I agree with everything you saw about being bored not being a good enough reason, but for a goody two-shoes like me this was absolute fantasy!

    Fun review–I didn’t get most of the references you made to other books/movies, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

  3. Oh, didn’t I read about John Hughes being someone’s penpal a while back? It was a very touching story.

    The teachers at that school were really awful, but still. (Not to say that I was a saint, but I didn’t do a lot of skiving. Except from gym class when I was 16. *cough*) Although, nine days total absense isn’t too bad really. Not if it’s in a year. I probably used to rack that up being genuinelly ill!

    The references are to a couple of animated comedy series (P&F is currently on Disney XD, Animaniacs was done early-mid 1990s) and the books, well they’re Swedish anyway, so no worries! 🙂

  4. The reason this film is loved by millions and adored by several generations 25 years after its release is because it’s a perfect film. Every scene and every frame is right out of the genius mind of John Hughes. Sure, there are funnier films (even some written by John Hughes), but this one stands the test of time and looks as fresh as the day it was shot. Thanks for reminding me of how much I love it.

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