Case Number 00165


Paramount // 1986 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // October 27th, 1999

The Charge

One Man's Struggle To Take It Easy.

Opening Statement

Ferris Bueller's Day Off may be one of the greatest comedies ever written, and certainly the greatest John Hughes film ever made. You can keep your Planes, Trains and Automobiles, your Breakfast Club, your Uncle Buck and your Mr. Mom. Not that they aren't all great movies, because they are. But I will take Ferris Bueller over each and every one of them any day of the week.

The Evidence

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. -- Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller tells the story of one smart high school kid who decides to take the day off school. Along the way he drags his two best friends into his shenanigans and pulls the wool over the eyes of his parents, his principal, his teachers, the rest of his high school and half the townspeople (including the police). Ferris, his best friend, and his girlfriend roam around the city of Chicago, taking in the sights, rather than endure another day in school. They see a Cubs game, the Art Institute, the top of the Sears Tower and all the city has to offer. Along the way, we are sprinkled with little bits of philosophy and harsh realities about the parent-child relationship and a high schooler's view of the future.

Perhaps the best part of Ferris Bueller is the casting. Virtually every character is nearly perfectly cast. After all, can you really imagine anyone other than Matthew Broderick (Election, Glory, War Games) playing Ferris? Or Alan Ruck (Twister, Speed, Spin City) playing his sidekick Cameron? Or Jeffrey Jones (The Hunt For Red October, Amadeus, The Devil's Advocate) playing Rooney? It goes on from there. Edie McClurg. Mia Sara. Ben Stein. Charlie Sheen. Jennifer Grey. God, even Kristy Swanson in an early film role. Every one of them turns in a stellar performance. Perfect all the way around.

I did have a test today. That wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European, I don't plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they're socialists? -- Ferris Bueller

The video on this DVD is less than stellar, though, despite being anamorphically enhanced. The 2.35:1 transfer is not specifically labeled on the box, but both IMDb and have it wrong, so I can only assume some bad info was given out by Paramount. I guess that's one way to avoid labeling problems which have plagued certain other studios -- keep it as ambiguous as possible! In any event, the video suffers from the Disney-esque moiré problems from digital overenhancement. This problem is evident whenever we see serious lateral patterns in a deep or long shot. Witness the fly-by of the city skyline, or the scene where Ferris and friends leave the restaurant downtown for the clearest evidence of this problem. The lateral image of the window shutters breaks up severely and shimmers throughout the scene.

Other than that, the colors seems a bit washed out in some scenes, particularly flesh tones. Brightly lit scenes also looked a bit grainy at times, particularly some of the blue sky shots. Overall, the problems were much less severe than for instance Mr. Holland's Opus, but it is distracting nonetheless. While I am glad to see Paramount stepping up to the plate with anamorphic transfers, they still apparently have a bit to learn. I just wish it wasn't being learned on such great titles as this one.

They could be fascist anarchists. That still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car. Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. -- Ferris Bueller

The audio here is much better than the video. Thankfully, Paramount has thought to include both a 5.1 and Dolby Surround track on this disc, as well as a French language surround track. This is something that really should be done on a regular basis, and I am glad to see Paramount supporting this feature. The audio is virtually strictly dialogue, supported by the occasional throaty growl of the Ferrari engine, or some pretty cool music. Generally a pretty simple track and one difficult to mess up completely.

A person should not believe in an ism -- he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: "I don't believe in Beatles -- I just believe in me." -- Ferris Bueller

Perhaps the best feature of this disc, however, is the fact that it contains a commentary track by John Hughes, the director of the film. While Hughes is a bit deadpan most of the time, he clearly takes pride in this film, as he should. And he offers a lot of insight into what was going on behind the scenes, as well as some interesting casting choices et cetera...Overall, I found the track amusing and informative. Commentary tracks represent the best that DVD has to offer, in my opinion. While this disc lacks any other extras, if a studio had to pick one to include with every release, I would choose a commentary track. I still think paramount could have done better than this, but I would sure prefer this to a trailer, or eve a plethora of trailers.

A good point there. Of course, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus -- I'd still have to bum rides off of people. -- Ferris Bueller

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As I said, I would have preferred that this disc be a full out Special Edition. Moreover I would have loved to hear a Criterion-style, well-produced commentary track interlacing comments from all the principal actors as well as the director. That and a better video transfer and I would be jumping in the aisles. As it stands, I enjoyed the disc, and am happy to have it in the collection, but am left wanting more -- a lot more.

Closing Statement

One of the greatest comedies of all time, Ferris Bueller's Day Off combines all the proper elements of a good old-fashioned road movie, with those of a successful Broadway show. Broderick shows more with a gesture or a look in this movie than some actors do in their entire career. And it is one of the few successful movies ever to break the fifth wall, and have its main character address the audience directly.

The Verdict

The movie is acquitted without further adieu. The disc is sentenced to 30 days in the clink to think about its shortcomings.

Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 81
Audio: 86
Extras: 40
Acting: 94
Story: 95
Average: 79

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)

* English

Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentary by John Hughes

* IMDb