Maitre D’: You’re Abe Froman?
Ferris: That’s right. I’m Abe Froman.
Maitre D’: The Sausage King of Chicago?
Ferris: Uh yeah, that’s me.
There have been times when I’ve gone back and watched films I used to love when I was a teenager, only to wind up confirming to myself that sometimes during those years I had awful taste in movies. In fact, there have been several films that I’ve hunted down on eBay in VHS format because the movie hasn’t yet been released on DVD, and after watching the first twenty-minutes I can usually ascertain why the film is still out-of-print. But, that is certainly not the case with “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I recently watched the film with my girlfriend, when we were stuck indoors avoiding a torrential down poor that was assailing south Florida. I’ve seen the film at least a dozen times over the years, and never once have I felt bored or considered jokes and story lines that once seemed funny and relevant to be the opposite. In this blogger’s opinion, the coming of age comedy film written and directed by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club), is still time well spent twenty-four years after its initial release on June 11, 1986.
One of the most startling facts about the movie was that it took John Hughes less than a week to write a film that contains a multitude of lines that are still quoted to this day. Made for six-million dollars, a paltry budget by today’s standards, the film would go onto gross over seventy million dollars for Paramount Pictures. While Paramount raked in the cash, Hughes was happy that a movie he considered “a love letter to Chicago” was being seen and enjoyed by so many; to quote the director, “I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could. Not just in the architecture and landscape, but the spirit.” The film features several of Chicago’s well known landmarks such as: Wrigley Field, the baseball home of the lovable losers The Chicago Cubs; The Sears Tower, which, until the construction, in 1997, of the Petronas twin towers, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the world’s tallest building and the Art Institute of Chicago, the interior of which had never been filmed prior to the movie. In the film sequence featuring the Art Institute, a total of twenty works of art can be viewed, albeit briefly; among the works are “Nude Under Pine Tree” by Pablo Picasso, “Days of the Gods” by Gauguin, and “Greyed Rainbow” by Jackson Pollack.
The title role of Ferris is played by actor Matthew Broderick (The Producers.) His laid-back, clever character makes being truant from school look like a charming endeavor. But, Ferris is not alone; he shares his day of fun and frolic with his best friend Cameron Frye who is a worrisome, hypochondriac, (a role originally offered to, but turned down by, Emilio Estevez) played by Alan Ruck (Spin City). Ruck had originally auditioned for the role of Bender in Hughes’ film The Breakfast Club, but was passed over for actor Judd Nelson. The chemistry between Broderick and Ruck was effortless; the two had worked together on Broadway in 1985 in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. The third star who completes Ferris’s trio of juvenile delinquents is his girlfriend Sloane, portrayed by the attractive Mia Sara (Timecop). Every hero needs a good villain to match wits with, and in this film actor Jeffery Jones, (The Devil’s Advocate) doesn’t disappoint in the role of high school principal, Ed Rooney. Rounding out the cast is Jennifer Grey, (Dirty Dancing) Ferris’s jealous sister, two of the most gullible parents ever to grace the silver screen, Cindy Pickett, (St. Elsewhere) and Lyman Ward who has appeared on numerous television shows, such as: Family Ties, First Monday, Jag, Magnum P.I., and The Wonder Years. And in three small, but hilarious turns, Edie McClug, (Back to School) as Grace, Principal Rooney’s dimwitted secretary, Charlie Sheen, (Two and Half Men) whose character doesn’t have a name – he’s just credited in the film as boy in police station, and Ben Stein, (Win Ben Stein’s Money) as the monotone economics teacher boring his students while asking questions like “anyone, anyone, anyone seen this before?”
The plot is pretty straightforward. Ferris Bueller is in his senior year of high school. He has already been absent eight times, but is aching for one more fun filled day away from the confines of the school grounds before graduation ushers him into the next phase of his life. Using, in this blogger’s opinion, laughable reverse psychology on his well meaning parents, he gets the all important permission he needs to stay home in order to recuperate from his fictitious illness. A call to his best friend Cameron, an elaborate plot to get his girlfriend Sloane out of school, and the appropriation of a gorgeous 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, and the three are off for an adventurous day in the windy city of Chicago. As an aside the 250 GT California, at the time of filming, was worth approximately $350,000; a few years ago one sold at auction for $10, 976,000.
In this blogger’s opinion, John Hughes proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that teenage comedies don’t have to be imbecilic to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, all too often, many teen centered comedies contain characters that are either breaking the law, getting wasted, or are sexually obsessed to the point of delusion. The teenage character’s in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off rise above those clichéd portrayals. The director does an excellent job of showcasing that far too often adults underestimate the intelligence of those who have to spend seven years (counting age 20) knocking on the door of adulthood. In fact one of the few complaints that I’ve ever heard associated with the film has nothing to do with the actual movie itself, but rather its soundtrack, or lack thereof on CD. The movie contains music from groups and performers such as The Beatles, Big Audio Dynamite, English Beat, Wayne Newton, and the stick in your head memorable track “Oh Yeah,” by Yello that is played throughout the closing sequence of the movie, which I won’t spoil for those of you’ve who’ve not yet seen this 80s gem. Most of the music can be purchased individually, and, if not still available at retailers, can be found on eBay and other auction sites. Speaking of retailers or more accurately in this case writing about retailers, if any of what I’ve written sounds appealing to you, don’t even bother renting the film. I normally wouldn’t write that because everyone’s tastes are different, but I am serious when I tell you: “go out and purchase it.” I understand that many of you might be doing some belt tightening these days because of the dreadful economy, but the return on investment you’ll get from enjoyment while watching the movie will make it money well spent.