Judge Ryan Keefer yearns for the days when Zork was an awesome computer game and U2 was still toiling in moderate obscurity. Welcome to 1986!
Our review of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, published October 27th, 1999, is also available.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
What was the pitch meeting like for John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Allow me to speculate:
Hughes: "Well, we're going to make a movie about a kid skipping school, and he's got a girlfriend, and a friend, and they're trying to not get caught by their parents or the school."
Paramount studio exec: "Mr. Hughes, John, I don't think that we could really see a lot of people liking a film like this."
Paramount studio exec: "Well, you did make us some money with Pretty in Pink. I'll tell you what—we'll greenlight this. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a meeting for The Golden Child that I must get to."
So, two decades later and with a new version that holds some new extras, is this double dip worth twenty more dollars of your hard-earned wealth?
Facts of the Case
Popular high school student Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, Election, The Producers) knows what the loopholes are and how to exploit them. He decides to take the day off from school and enjoy the sights and sounds of his town before he and his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck, Twister), and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, Legend) go their separate ways.
The Dean of Students at his school, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones, Ed Wood) doesn't buy Ferris' illness at all. He goes on a chase to capture his proverbial "white whale" in the act of playing hooky, as part of a single-minded pursuit to make sure that Ferris doesn't subvert the school system—and Rooney's credibility. Thus, the chase begins. Think of it as a version of The Fugitive, without the one-armed man and with a lot more yuks.
Wow, has it been almost 20 years since Ferris Bueller's Day Off was theatrically released? The mind reels, and the nostalgia and melancholy kick into overdrive. Prepare yourself for what I'm about to say, because it's the first time I've said it, and it's the first time it's had a personal effect on me. Anyone over the age of 30 can honestly remember when they first saw the film, and how frightening it was that it fit into their lives so seamlessly. I personally had a friend in high school who would call in with sick days frequently, with his mother's knowledge and permission. He was the first guy I knew whose parents had a projection TV where we could watch hockey games, so I guess that was the reason why I gravitated to him, and why I have a predilection for watching things on large video screens.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off was not only about a kid who skipped school with his friends. In an era when young people were neglected, and thrown material goods by their parents in order to "keep quiet," the film was less about a kid skipping school (though that part was pretty funny) and more about a kid who was trying to find happiness in his current place in life. Knowing full well that in several months he may never see his best friend or girlfriend again, he wants to enjoy the best of Chicago with them while he still has the opportunity. His hopes are that perhaps with those memorable events, they could continue their relationships even after going their separate ways. Take a look at how the parents are portrayed in the film. Cameron's mother and father are dysfunctional—but you never see them, you only see how Cameron and Ferris talk about them. You do get to see Ferris' parents, but they have always seemed to come off as vain, superficial, clueless parents who care about their kids, but not on any real deep level.
Moving away from the focus on the more serious or profound undertones of the story, the film is, in a nutshell, hilarious. You've got Ferris, who frequently breaks the fourth wall in order to give the viewer as much time as possible to identify with his situation. He is aptly played by Broderick. Ferris could have been played as an over-the-top, mischievous little troll by some other actor, but Broderick does it with just the right touch of feeling. As Cameron, Ruck is at first a neurotic pile of flesh, but gradually evolves into someone who truly appreciates what Ferris has done for him over the course of the day. Mia Sara was a vision at the time I saw this film (sorry honey!), and still looks striking when revisiting the film now.
There weren't too many extras dropped from the first version of this disc, and the new featurettes are decent. There's a look back at the film now, featuring new interviews with almost the entire major cast (except for Sara). Those who do not appear for new interviews appear in archived footage. I don't know what was going on in the head of Mia Sara, but even the parking lot attendant and maitre d' from the restaurant are included in this piece, for Pete's sake! Come on—if Matthew Broderick can show up for this new extra, everyone else can. In a perfect and just world, a new commentary track with Broderick, Sara, and Ruck would have been a nice addition (a la the outstanding version of Say Anything out now), but Paramount normally doesn't go whole hog when it comes to an ultimate special edition set.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Well, it's hard to watch some of Jeffrey Jones' scenes without having his recent legal problems in the back of your mind. It's a little unfair to the film, but it's unavoidable. And aside from yet another silly name for a Paramount Special Edition version DVD, if you're going to bring in some new bonus material, at least you can retain what is actually a pretty good director's commentary track by Hughes. Why wasn't that done here? Anyone? Anyone?
Those who already have the old version may want to pick up the new one for the sake of the new extras, but unless there's a substantial improvement in picture quality that I'm not aware of, you may be able to pass this by. For newer fans, and any other people who liked outlandish hair and New Wave/Alternative music and can't get out of the '80s, you'll have no worries from snapping this up.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is found not guilty and is sentenced to take the day off and enjoy life. Paramount is found guilty because of their work. Keeping them under Ed Rooney's close personal supervision seems to be the right punishment for this crime.
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