Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Lyman Ward & Cindy Pickett
With a series of 80’s teenager films that were made to be as smart as they were entertaining, director/writer John Hughes became the voice of a generation (that came slightly before my own). Even though it’s currently reaching its 30th anniversary, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF remains every bit as amusing and enjoyable as it likely was in its heyday. Besides featuring Matthew Broderick’s best performance (which isn’t saying a whole hell of a lot when you consider his recent output), BUELLER is a light-hearted romp packs entertainment, laughs, and even a few genuine emotions into fast-paced 102 minutes.
It’s a beautiful day in Chicago and high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has no intention of going to school. After getting his parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett) to fall for a carefully calculated sick routine, Bueller sets up elaborate precautions to ensure that nobody catches on to his fake illness. With girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and reluctant best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) also in tow, the teenage trio drive downtown to live life to its fullest. Little does Ferris know that two people aren’t falling for his act. One of these skeptics is jealous younger sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey), who becomes bound and determined to expose Ferris’ charade to her parents. The other is stuff-shirted Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who wishes to hold Bueller back for another heavily monitored year of high school.
Will Ferris get back to his house on time? Will Jeannie or Principal Rooney expose his lies? Will Cameron stand up to his emotionally abusive father? Could this film only make sense in the 80’s, because modern technology would almost certainly ruin Bueller’s day off? To discover the answers to these questions and more, you’ll just have to watch the movie. It’s fairly obvious that BUELLER isn’t meant to be taken seriously. You have to suspend your disbelief as Ferris narrowly avoids many encounters with his naïve parents, Rooney commits crimes in his quest to expose Bueller, and Jeannie goes through a brief story arc that is instantly forgotten a few minutes later. Taken as pure entertainment though, BUELLER is guaranteed to keep a grin on your face.
As mentioned before, Matthew Broderick isn’t exactly known for his acting prowess. He’s appeared in plenty of flops (e.g. 1998’s GODZILLA, 1999’s INSPECTOR GADGET, and 2006’s DECK THE HALLS). Ferris Bueller is easily the best performance of Broderick’s career. It’s hard to imagine any other actor in this role. Broderick perfectly captures smart-ass mannerisms, an honest attitude, and makes this titular slacker into a lovable protagonist. In a creative stylistic choice, John Hughes decided to have Ferris frequently break the fourth wall to give the audience his direct reactions and thoughts. These bits are used for comedic effect, but also give us a window into Ferris’ mind.
Broderick’s leading role isn’t the only great performance though, because the supporting cast is especially strong. Though we are only given small details about her, Mia Sara shines as Sloane and has solid chemistry with Broderick. Jennifer Grey is so entertaining as Jeannie that I was almost rooting for her. This character also receives a fun story arc that isn’t quite consistent with later actions. Even though this might potentially be seen as inconsistent writing, Jeannie’s shifting motives provide the funniest sequence in the film (you’ll know it when you see it). Lyman Ward is unrealistically oblivious as Ferris’ father, but also receives plenty of laughs as a result. Jeffrey Jones is fantastically slimy as Principal Rooney, giving one of the most memorable performances of his career. In the real world, people would likely be rooting for this character, but Jones plays Rooney as a pompous scumbag and gets plenty of abuse inflicted upon him (usually due to his own stupid actions).
Alan Ruck’s Cameron stands head and shoulders above the rest of these side characters. Though he initially seems like a straight-man to Bueller’s comedic hero, Cameron’s subplot (involving his father’s precious Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, which would currently be worth around a million dollars) has a surprisingly deep conclusion. His complete story arc is akin to something you’d see in Hughes’ own BREAKFAST CLUB as opposed to a silly comedy about a kid playing hooky. Ruck’s final moments inject well-executed emotional levity into a film that could have easily coasted by on laughs alone.
To cap off the wonderful characters, funny writing and upbeat attitude, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF runs at a perfectly paced speed and never comes close to overstaying its welcome. You’ll likely want to watch past the film’s conclusion as one hilarious joke spans through the end credits. Whether you’re viewing it through the eyes of a rebellious teenager, a nostalgic adult or someone who’s just craving a good comedy, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF is an entertaining blast from start to finish.