FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s an ’80s comedy that holds up as very funny and still ranks with Matthew Broderick’s best work. And if you came along too late to see it on the big screen, a couple of Cinemark cineplexes are bringing it back this weekend … in a socially distanced manner, of course. My review was published in the Deseret News on June 13, 1986.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is another terrific teen comedy from John Hughes, the writer-director-producer who has already given us such winners as “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink,” not to mention (and we shouldn’t) “Weird Science.”
Matthew Broderick plays sort of a modern-day teenage version of Groucho Marx in that he frequently turns to the camera and directly addresses the audience … a technique recently revived by Bruce Willis in the TV series “Moonlighting.” (And in this film it makes for the funniest closing sequence you’ve seen in a long time — don’t leave before the end credits are over.)
Broderick is the title character, a master con artist who feigns illness to stay home from school, and when his parents leave after wishing him well, he sits up, turns to the camera and says with equal parts smugness and surprise, “They bought it!”
Soon he’s off to downtown Chicago with his girlfriend (Mia Sara) and his best friend (Alan Ruck), an unhappy lad whose father prefers his classic Ferrari to his son.
Mia Sara, left, Alan Ruck, Matthew Broderick, 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986)
Meanwhile, the obnoxious and ridiculous school principal (Jeffrey Jones, the emperor in “Amadeus”) is plotting to expose Ferris, as is Ferris’ own sister (Jennifer Grey), who feels he’s gotten away with too much for too long.
The plotting here is pure fantasy, as the trio manages to convince the head waiter at a posh restaurant that Ferris is a young sausage tycoon, avoids several close calls with Ferris’ father downtown, convinces the principal that Ferris (from a distance) is his girlfriend’s father, etc.
There is also a lot of high-tech assistance here, as Ferris uses his home computer, tape machines and various and sundry other modern mechanical devices to get away with his escape for the day.
Toward the end “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” tends to get a bit preachy and sluggish, although it does pick up again.
But, as with most Hughes films, character is the thing, not plot. While the situations are sometimes a bit too contrived and silly, the characters are constantly charming, with actors perfectly cast, interacting with great hilarity — both physically and verbally — lifting the film to great comic heights.
Broderick is perfect in the lead, with his own personal charm, his unique way with a phrase, and his comic manner — he can give a look, sly smile or grin that says more than reams of dialogue — making Ferris Bueller an utterly delightful character.
Matthew Broderick in the final moments of 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986).
And though all the adults are buffoons (as is also the case in most Hughes projects), Jones is very funny as the principal, whether spouting cliché after cliché (“When are you going to wake up and smell the coffee, he’s just leading you down the primrose path”) or finding himself terrorized by the Buellers’ dog.
Ruck and Sara have less to do but are good in their roles, as are Grey, and as Ferris’ parents, Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward. Especially notable, however, are Charlie Sheen, in a small but pivotal role, and Edie McClurg, quite funny as the principal’s secretary.
Despite a few vulgar lapses in taste (and there aren’t many), along with some profanity and a nude computer graphic – for which the film is rated PG-13 (which seems a bit severe, given the number of PG movies lately that are just as bad or worse) — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is very funny and should appeal to both young and older audiences.
But it is the kids who will make this a big hit; this is just the kind of movie they’ll enjoy seeing again and again, as smart-aleck youth triumphs repeatedly over buffoonish adulthood.