By Marc S. Sanders
I’ve said before how John Hughes had an instinct for making interesting stories out of the mundane. Sure he might broadly exaggerate, but the storylines stem from relatable anecdotes like cross country traveling, forgotten birthdays or school detention. Thankfully he also explored a day in the life of faking illness and skipping school with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Matthew Broderick memorably plays the title character with an answer for everything and the means to outsmart his naive parents, his pesky sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey), as well as the dim witted victim of staged slapstick, school principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). Hughes teams Ferris up with his beautiful girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and his troubled best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) for a romp through downtown Chicago.
Ferris Bueller… is simply a party to watch. The tempo of its comedy thankfully gets very familiar, very quickly. There’s gag after gag to celebrate the inventiveness of Ferris. With Cameron, he manages to get Sloane out of school, alter his absent days in the school system, arrange for a high-end fancy lunch thanks to the “Sausage King of Chicago” and actually pilot Cameron’s father’s prized, rare Ferrari convertible. There’s nothing Ferris can’t do, nor won’t do. There’s nothing Ferris can’t get away with. The guy can even hop on a downtown parade float to get the entire city engaged in a rousing rendition of “Twist & Shout,” arguably one of the most fun scenes to ever be filmed. Hundreds of extras crowd the streets to remind any one of us how fun life can be. What a joyous pleasure life is.
As expected with most of Hughes’ films though, this picture has a heart. Life should always be celebrated, but that does not mean we don’t have episodes where we suffer. Alan Ruck as Cameron is not well with his home life. Parental discourse and the lack of a loving home weighs upon him. The storyline is embraced very sensitively. A touching moment occurs as Cameron tours the Art Institute of Chicago and maintains an engrossed stare with the painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Cameron is a product of loneliness lacking the ability to cry for help unlike the child in the painting. It’s another one of those treasured moments in film where dialogue is not needed to describe a character’s pain.
Jeffrey Jones makes for a good foil in a Three Stooges style storyline as he attempts over and over again to catch Ferris in the act. It never works well for him and leads to hilarious moments with the house dog and every other unfortunate circumstance imaginable such as getting his car towed and his foot stuck in the mud. Hughes pieces these cheap gags together to make them really feel much more valuable than they should be.
Lastly, John Hughes creates good inside gags within his setting. The city of Chicago works as a character concerned with Ferris’ supposed illness, including well wishes from his classmates, to the faculty, and even the police department much to the chagrin of his sister.
Let’s just say it’s imperative we all do our part to Save Ferris!