Ferris Bueller's Day Off ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The amusing circumstance of a character(s) attempting to outsmart and defeat a seemingly supernatural entity, but failing miserably in the process, is one of my more personal intrigues of the art of comedy, mostly because it’s a story that’s a lot more grounded in reality than how it normally seems. When people take eye to someone whose personality and wits allow them to get away with almost anything, it causes people like us to start reevaluating our own inadequacies when in comparison...and then we get start to get angry because of it. It creates a desire to witness this superficial individual receive some sort of comeuppance, because we as people, living in our modern society, believe that the world should not permit too much power to one person. If cartoons like Bugs Bunny or Road Runner/Wile E Coyote, or segments like the opening to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs illustrate the absurdity or even deconstruction of the undefeatable hero, then Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the explanation for why certain people are able to get away with bloody murder.

The titular character, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), is his high school’s top rebel rouser: able to get away with almost anything and everything at his own expense. “They think he’s a righteous dude,” says school secretary Grace (Edie McClurg). Whilst her boss, Principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), thinks less so and has been plotting for years trying to expose young Ferris as a fraud, showing him that the world is not as easy or manipulative as it seems. He may get his chance however, as Ferris decides to fake an illness for the 9th time, in an effort to spend a comfortable and leisurely day doing whatever he wants in the city of Chicago with his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), and his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) - who’s understandably tentious when Ferris decides to borrow his dad’s priceless and recently restored 1961 250 GT Ferrari. But Rooney’s not the only one who thinks Ferris as a charlatan, for Ferris’ sister, Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), hates her brother’s guts more than any other monotonous classroom, and spending more of her time wallowing in antipathy instead of engaging in other related teenage hormonal pleasures.

But try as they might, Rooney and Jeanie fail again and again at testing their hypothesis, and almost always end up as the butt of the joke of a scene. Because their arrogance and personal egos are the real adversary to their goals, and consequently, don’t understand what makes Ferris so appealing and how he remains indestructible. The central theme of the movie is, in the words of Ferris himself, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop or look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Indeed, that is the leading explanation as to how Ferris and company are able to have it their way so easily. The world and the adults around Ferris are mindless, autonomous drones that proceed with their day as much as any other, making it nearly seamless for a group of unsuspecting teenagers to slip by and manipulate. Ferris’ own parents unquestionably accept that Ferris is feeling sick because they figure ‘this is something that happens to young people, why bother?’ “Incredible,” Ferris says, “one of the worst performances of my career and they never doubted for a second.” Even Ferris and Cameron’s economics teacher (Ben Stein) gives very little enthusiasm or passion to the lecture he’s giving on “Voodoo Economics.” The movie is a nonstop comment on adults in society neglecting to grasp the value of analyzing and absorbing ambience, instead of focusing their time and effort on tasks that fail to give them any amusement or happiness - which is ultimately the reason why Rooney and Jeanie keep ending up as the punchline in every scene they’re in, or even why many mainstream motion pictures aimed at teens fail to connect or sympathize with its audience. Cameron, in particular, slowly starts becoming one of those drones himself, as he and Ferris are edging closer to their high school graduation. Being one of the intentions for Ferris faking his illness: giving his best friend the best day he could ever ask for, before the two become mindless and exploitative automatons. And by the end, Cameron finally understands what he will strive for when becoming an adult: full of life and cheer, and aware that even the most ostensibly perfect of things - whether it be a rare automobile or a rambunctious and resilient youngster - are just as fatal and open to weaknesses as much as anything else. Leading to one of the most emotionally heartfelt moments in the entire picture: “If I didn’t want it, I wouldn't've let you take the car out this morning,” Cameron says to Ferris, “I could’ve stopped you. It is possible to stop Mr. Ferris Bueller, you know.”

The central theme of taking things slow so as to appreciate the environment, also applies to writer and director John Hughes’ cinematography and editing. If this film were to double as an advertisement for the windy city, then he’s more than once succeeded in that objective. There are frequent times throughout when the film will cut to various different establishing shots or random objects that can be found within a particular location. It could be a close-up of someone’s name plate at their desk, or even a sheriff's badge on a chest: applying to the movie’s message of engrossing and observing the environment by making every location distinct and unforgettable. The scene of Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron visiting the Art Institute of Chicago is a very leisurely paced and shot moment in the film, allowing the audience breathe and appreciate the montage of Hughes's favorite pieces back in his youth.

Just as Ferris succeeds in delivering Cameron an enriching and enjoyable time away from the impending struggles of adult life, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off succeeds in delivering an enriching and enjoyable time for audiences. I am pleased that this movie never once moved too fast, because if it didn’t slowed down for a second, “you could miss it.”