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Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

In the 1980’s a screenwriter (and producer/director) named John Hughes made his start at what has become a very successful career. His first real hit was National Lampoon’s Vacation (the original) for which he wrote the screenplay. Shortly after that hit he followed up by writing a series of screenplays based on teen experience (e.g. Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club). He also produced and/or directed the movies made from many of those scripts. The best of these teen films, focused on the high school experience, is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, in one of his best roles) is a high school senior. However, he isn’t like most high school seniors in at least one respect: not only doesn’t he willingly submit to the mind-numbing high school tedium, he doesn’t submit at all. Ferris is an accomplished master of the means to escape the droning of high school teachers reciting their “wisdom” (perhaps best represented in this film by Ben Stein).

It is a beautiful day and Ferris decides that it should not be spent at school. He needs a day off. He begins by convincing his mother (Cindy Pickett) and father (Lyman Ward) that he is deathly ill. His sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) is more than skeptical and envious of Ferris’s success in avoiding both school and the Dean of Students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones – who is excellent in his role), although Jeanie doesn’t really seem to spend much time in classes either.

After convincing his parents that he is sick, Ferris next convinces his hypochondriac friend Cameron that he – Cameron (Alan Ruck, who gives an excellent portrayal) – is not sick, and should join him for a day of fun. Eventually Cameron agrees and plays a major role in freeing the next participant in the fun quest group, Ferris’s  girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara, who seems perfectly suited to this role), from what is apparently her “Literature” class.

Once they pick up Sloane at school and drive away in Cameron’s father’s Ferrari, they are off on their adventure. Also off on his own separate adventure is Ed Rooney who plans on trapping Ferris in the act of skipping school. It is difficult to choose which is more enjoyable between the two adventures: Ferris and friends on their romp through the city of Chicago (an uncredited star of the film) or Rooney’s well-deserved series of mishaps.

John Hughes has had many successes since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, notable among them Home Alone (and all the sequels) which he produced (original, 2 and 3) and for which he wrote the screenplay(s). Even with all those hits, from Vacation to Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off stands out as a high point, not only for Hughes but also for Matthew Broderick and the rest of its fine cast. If you ever wished you could have avoided all the silliness of high school in modern America, get revenge on all your own Ed Rooneys by watching this movie.

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