Combustible Celluloid
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With: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Gray, Jeffrey Jones, Edie McClurg, Charlie Sheen, Ben Stein, Kristy Swanson, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, Richard Edson
Written by: John Hughes
Directed by: John Hughes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 102
Date: 11/06/1986

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Save Ferris

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Bueller... Bueller... Edition on DVD

John Hughes' four-film high school cycle somehow corresponded with my four years of high school. Sixteen Candles (1984) opened in the summer before my freshman year, and focused on freshmen. The Breakfast Club (1985) came in the spring of my sophomore year, followed by Weird Science (1985) in the summer before my junior year, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) -- about three seniors -- in the summer before my senior year. (After I graduated, Hughes moved onto things like Curly Sue and Home Alone.)

I identified strongly with these films, not only because they captured what being a teenager and a high schooler felt like, but also because they embodied what life ought to be like.

"Life moves pretty fast," Ferris (Matthew Broderick) says. "If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." And so Ferris plays sick and takes a day off from school. It's a simple enough idea, and the initial conflict comes from Ferris' best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), who is rather an average high school student. Cameron is geeky and uncertain of himself. He's terribly nervous about taking the day off; he worries about getting caught. Ferris's girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) doesn't quite move at the same speed as her beau, but she's happy to tag along for a little while.

Unfortunately, Hughes mistrusts his skills and adds a villain to the piece, principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who spends the day chasing after Ferris and trying to prove that he's not, in fact, home sick. Ferris' older sister Jeanie (Jennifer Gray) also tries to sabotage him, but at least she behaves within normal human boundaries; the Rooney character is far too broad and cartoony for the rest of the suave, sophisticated movie.

Also, Ferris's day in Chicago is too long and consists of too many events to have possibly occurred in one eight-hour period (the baseball game alone should take about 4 hours), but that contributes to the film's magic, and to the power of possibility. If any of us were as brave as Ferris -- as self-confident -- perhaps a day like this could happen to us. This was an intoxicating formula at age 18, and it's still fun today.

DVD Details: Paramount has re-released the film in new special edition called the "Bueller... Bueller Edition" after Ben Stein's monotone classroom roll call. Stein appears in a mind-blowing extra in which he compares the film to Gone with the Wind and the New Testament, and claims that his one day on the set was superior to his time writing speeches for Presidents Nixon and Ford. There are other extras too, but after Stein's 9 minutes, they're a little dull.

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