Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
I’ve got some good news and some bad news.
Bad News: Since moving to Chicago, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is no longer ‘just a good movie’ that brings up nostalgia for my childhood (teenhood?); rather, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is now a where’s where of Chicago-y places I’ve visited.
Heck, not only do I know some of the places in the movie, but I’ll be seeing it in Chicago’s Best Movie Theatre (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/best-local-film-house/BestOf?oid=4078050).
The Good: I don’t think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is really supposed to remind anyone exactly of their High School Days per se. I never once played hookie and still am terrified to call into work, sick or not. I wasn’t the ideal student, but I never wanted to do anything as dangerous as pretend to be sick and then go to a Cubs game.
Even though this movie is about specific events in Ferris Bueller’s life, it doesn’t need to be transplanted over the viewers to be effective. Instead, the idea, the longing for something more, to have fun and not just play by the rules ALL the time; that is what’s supposed to be taken away by the viewer.
The Story: Ferris Bueller (a seemingly innocent Matthew Broderick) is out to play hookie. He recruits his best friend Cameron (a morose Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (a quietly beautiful Mia Sara) to help him make his last ‘sick day’ of his High School career the best one ever. Of course his principal (the hapless Jeffrey Jones) and sister Jeanie (the disgruntled Jennifer Grey) are out to make sure he gets caught and suffers the consequences. Also, who knew the Sausage King of Chicago was so young?
Ferris Bueller could be considered a fantasy film. Not only is Ferris able to trick his parents into letting him stay home from school, he does it so cheesily, to the point of groan-inducing schmoozing. He then gives us his tips on how to pull it off which establishes his character as a trickster and master manipulator. I’m sure many kids actually followed his ‘advice’ and were severely disappointed when they found out Moms are way more intuitive on detecting B.S. than Bueller’s Mom. The intro also establishes Ferris as a goofball who likes to put on a show and have fun, as seen by his shower singing and clarinet ‘solo’.
Speaking of character introductions, we next meet Cameron, the perfect foil for Ferris. The kind of best friends that could only exist on film. Cameron’s bleak, whiney nature almost gets annoying, but seeing him give in to Ferris’ temptations is something we all wish we could do. He is also an indispensable (and ultimately willing) accomplice to the trouble making, as he provides the ‘adult voice’ and car. Sloane, Ferris’ girlfriend, doesn’t simply tolerate his antics or put up with his silliness, but goes along with them, proving their romance is real. Ferris feels the need to enjoy the beautiful Chicago day, but without friends to enjoy it with he’d be better off at school.
Speaking of School, everyone knows and loves Ben Stein’s role call. The way he monotonously calls out name after name. Later he is seen lecturing on The Great Depression, taking moments to briefly stop and ask brain numb students to participate. No replies. Did Stein start out so boring, or has years of teaching made him this way? Are students really better off learning about some tariff from some time ago? Or are Ferris’ life lessons of how to have fun and never give up more important? Making a cameo as well is Chicago’s own Del Close, father of long form improv as we know it. Del was a man whose contributions to Chicago and comedy stretch far greater than simple cameos in movies. He’s a man Ferris would have admired if he were real. Hearing stories about Del one almost imagines he were a character out of a movie himself.
Speaking of comedy, Ferris Bueller isn’t a comedy of varying degrees of range. Most the comedy is broad, silly, and physical. But that one kind of comedy is done in varying degrees of pleasure; from self-gratification (Ferris Bueller’s antics) to nervousness (The ‘Joyriders’ and the constant threat of getting caught) to masochistic (Ed Rooney’s downfall into degradation and humiliation). The final ‘chase’ scene perfectly embodies all this and culminates all three to a point where the oh-so clever Ferris, who has an answer or motivational speech for everything, is left speechless, even to the viewer. But just because the comedy is silly, doesn’t mean it isn’t also smart, or that the movie can’t take a serious turn or two.
Speaking of serious surprises, this is a John Hughes movie. Sure the first half is silly and fun and us hanging out having a good time, but there’s got be a point, right? Ferris might not go through any big character changes, but his journey does ‘enlighten’ others, most notably Cameron. Comedy is used as a weapon to get audiences to care for the characters. It’s hard to not like fun or funny people. It’s hard to have a bad time when everyone else is having so much fun. The best was to get an audience on your side is to make them laugh, show them a good time. Then make your characters do something brave, like Cameron does with his father’s car. I guarantee when people first watch this movie their jaws drop during this ‘confrontation’ scene before they realize it’s okay to cheer. If people are looking for an answer as to why Hughes movies are classics, it’s because he doesn’t waste comedy. Heck, Ferris even is somehow able to slightly ‘infect’ one of his biggest rivals.
Speaking of Ferris’ sister, there are two things I’d like to point out about ‘The Police Station’ scene that I only realized on this most recent viewing of the movie. One, how ironic it is that Charlie Sheen is the ‘voice of reason’ seeing as how “drugs” have messed up his life now. Two, as Jeanie is walking away down the stairs of the station, for the first time in her life feeling noticed, she (off camera) starts to sing Danke Shoen. This obviously being one of Ferris’ favorite songs, that he sings in the shower, outright says is one of his faves, and gets an entire city to dance to. I just think its a nice character touch that Ferris’ favorite song could be something he picked up from his sister. Sibling rivalries/friendships are complicated things and this minor touch perfectly sums it all up.
(Note: Enjoy this ‘indie’ trailer remix of the movie that filter’s out the comedy, focusing instead on the more ‘serious’ content and relationships.)
Why You Must See It At Midnight: Some might say the message of this movie is… anyone? anyone?… ‘You only live once, so enjoy it.’ But I think that’s a little too… finite. Instead I like to think the message of the movie is, as Ferris just barely manages to prove, ‘You’re only a senior in High School once, so enjoy life.’
I am a ‘grown up’ now (as grown up as I could be for my age I suppose) and the idea of ‘playing hookie’ seems so childish. Yet, there will always be one thing that remains taboo and a fun ‘rule’ to break… the ‘going to bed early to get a reasonable amount of sleep’ rule. Hmmmm… I could either go to bed at a reasonable time or condense an entire day of fun with three good friends into (just over) an hour and a half. And you won’t be able to do this at just any old time or any old theater, no. This could only be done at Midnight at the best theatre, The Music Box Theatre.