“Oh Yeah…bow bow, chick– chicka chickaaaahhh.”-Yello
Summer is almost here! This time of year marks the end of another school year, graduations, and welcomes much needed leisure for teachers and students alike. Excitement exudes out of every student and teachers’ pores, counting down the days to their 90 day vacation of fun, sleep, and much needed recuperation. The last month of school always sees an influx of pranks, students blowing off steam due to the excitement in the air, and taking the occasional “sick day” to escape the routine and embark on an adventure. The latter is more common with graduating high school seniors and has come to pass as an unwritten rites of passage. Today’s feature, takes the simple act of skipping school to a whole new level. So today dudes & dudettes, we are off to Chicago to take in the sites, experience some culture, and laugh at the hookie hijinks in the classic comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
Welcome to the totally 80s bedroom of our charming teenage conman, Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick of The Cable Guy (1996). Ferris moans in bed as his gullible parents Lyman Ward of Sleepwalkers (1992) and Cindy Pickett of Son in Law (1993), believe their son with his claims of severe illness that will leave him bedridden for the day, excusing him from class during the last month of school. This ruse is filled with much theatrics from Ferris, sympathy from his parents, and great disdain from his attention deprived sister, Jeannie, Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing (1987). Jeannie is quite jealous of Ferris and his innate ability to never get caught while pulling a fast one. This resentment and sibling rivalry makes Jeannie quite vengeful at times to where she overreacts due to her feeling that she is always being dumped on, and we all know that “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
“They bought it!” Ferris has the house to himself and stage 1 of his plan is a success. Ferris breaks the fourth wall and enlightens the viewer on the standard operating procedures for faking sick in great detail, discusses socialism, his disdain for isms, and his bitterness that Jeannie received a car, while he was presented a computer. This computer along with his other electronic gadgets of deception and top of the line synthesizer, play a big part of pulling off the best sick day in modern history.
Outside of the Bueller household, his mother calls the school to inform about his absence. The Dean, Mr. Rooney, Jeffrey Jones of Ravenous (1999) is more than happy to inform Mrs. Bueller that her perfect boy has been absent 9 times this year. Ferris hacks into the school records database from his bedroom and changes the number to a reasonable 2 absences. Rooney, now enraged that the numbers have been manipulated, makes it his personal mission to catch Ferris in the act no matter what with help from his ditzy secretary Grace, Edie McClurg of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).
Ferris, now showered and ready to tackle the day, makes many outfit changes and shares with the viewer some insights about his life and his outlook of it all. By first period bell, the whole school is aware that Ferris is out sick, rumors fly that he is on the verge of death in need an organ transplant, and a “SAVE FERRIS” campaign is quickly launched. Of course this does not sit well with Jeannie, as she struggles through her day constantly hearing from the entire student body how great of a guy Ferris is. Meanwhile, Ferris is harassing his neurotic best friend, Cameron, Alan Ruck of Young Guns II (1990), to come pick him up for the day. Cameron, has taken a legitimate sick day as he deals with a lot emotional issues that stem from his parents and their emotionally cold household. Ferris wins the chat and guilt’s Cameron to swing by to spend time together on their sick day. Upon Cameron’s arrival, Ferris comes forth that he has other plans which include picking up his girlfriend Sloane (done so in an incestuous manner), Mia Sara of Legend (1985) from the high school. Once again, Cameron caves into Ferris’s demands by impersonating Sloane’s dad to inform the school that he will be picking her up due to a death in the family and surrenders the keys to his father’s plush 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder for the day trip into the Windy City. This cannot end well.
Rooney and Jeannie both grow more angry and determined to show everyone around them that Ferris is a con. While the two travel their own paths and meet several obstacles on the way to share the truth about the truant teenager, Ferris and friends are having an idyllic day taking in the arts, baseball, French cuisine, and a parade just when avoiding a few close calls. Will Ferris pull off the perfect sick day or will his sinister sister and/or persistent principal expose the creative chap and his malingering misadventures? I could go on and on, but there are some you which still have never seen this fun flick. I urge you to call out from school or work and spend some time unwinding from your daily stress with this nostalgic comedy. How could you possibly be expected to handle school or work on a day like this?
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was directed by John Hughes of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), straight off the success from his earlier features, The Breakfast Club (1985) and Weird Science (1985). Ferris is one of Hughes’s funniest films and cemented its place in pop culture and deemed a significant piece of art by the National Film Registry in 2014. Ferris was a box office success bringing in close to $71 million from a budget of approximately $6 million, becoming a home video favorite and cable programming staple since its release.
Ferris was also scribed by Hughes with the first draft was completed in less than a week started in Feb 1985. Additional drafts, preproduction, filming, and editing were quickly completed with a release in June 1986. This pace of production is almost nonexistent nowadays as it take producers in film and music, years to produce a body of work. The old work ethic of just getting it done, is dead as today’s artists and the industry drag their feet during the creative process waiting for an epiphany or enlightenment to move forward with a project. Hughes was a triple threat with his writing, directing and producing, more so in the 80s, and was rumored to have had Ferris green lit after a one sentence pitch to the studios due to his dependability and bankability at the time.
Elements of the MTV generation are ever present with the opening shots of the old MTV logo, bedroom posters, the clothing, certain cuts of the soundtrack, and some of the colloquial that would not pass the lips of today’s teenagers. Ferris luckily has never been damaged by a sequel, though a rumor lingered on for a few years, but the NBC money men did try cashing in with a dismal TV adaptation which starred a young Jennifer Aniston of Friends (1994) and Ami Dolenz of Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994). Needless to say, the sitcom was short lived and cancelled during its first season in 1990. Danke Schoen.
Ferris is packed with one liners, contemporary references to pop culture at that time, and memorable situations that have been lifted many times in homage by other films and TV shows in the past thirty years. Ferris also has a few bright spots of talent early in their heyday with bit parts by Kristy Swanson of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Louie Anderson of Baskets (2016), Charlie Sheen of Beyond the Law (1992) plays a druggie (a great method actor), and the likeable monotone Ben Stein of Win Ben Stein’s Money (1997). Ferris had a lot of talent audition or in talks to take part in the film such as Tom “Top Gun” Cruise; Jim “Ace Ventura” Carrey; Robert “Weird Science” Downey Jr; Molly “Pretty in Pink” Ringwald; Michael J. “Back to the Future” Fox; John “Say Anything…” Cusack; Rob “St. Elmo’s Fire” Lowe; John “Uncle Buck” Candy; Emilio “Maximum Overdrive” Estevez and a plethora of more thriving thespians that didn’t make the cut. Speaking of cut, the original Ferris print clocked in at over 2 hours and 40 minutes before being sliced and diced before the release. So if you are film buff, you can track down deleted scenes and the original script, which included other siblings that didn’t make it to the screen. Happy hunting.
Though Ferris’s behavior (lying, scheming, manipulating, and being the opportunist for his own selfishness) is frowned upon in normal everyday life, he gets a pass from the viewer. This is because Bueller is so likeable and that Broderick and Hughes portrayed him in such an endearing light. Ferris is a warmhearted comedy, innocent with its intent, and Ferris is actually skipping school to help his emotionally lost best friend Cameron just to find a little bit of happiness. Though Ferris is going against the grain and doing wrong, the viewer likes him because he is having some harmless teenage fun and isn’t hurting anyone. The theme of what will happen after graduation is touched upon, and my feeling is that Ferris matured, become a success in whatever endeavor he pursued and never lost that boyish spark of mischief or playfulness that he is known for. In a perfect world, Ferris and Cameron are still friends as they approach 50.
While writing this article, NHL Detroit Red Wing legend, Gordie Howe, passed away over the weekend. The jersey that Cameron wears is that of Gordie Howe. Word is, Howe was always touched that his number was used in the movie. It’s very odd how the timing of such events coincide with each other. An anniversary of Ferris’s debut with an anniversary of Howe’s last game…in life.
Life is indeed an adventure. We all have our school, familial, work, and societal responsibilities we must tend to. We have a tendency to be so focused or overwhelmed in achieving our goals, we sometimes forget to enjoy the adventure along the way. Bask in the day, appreciate the little things, and remember to enjoy yourself. Danke Schoen for reading and I will leave you with the wise advice Ferris shared…
Check out Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Trailer
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- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin @RickBaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org