Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Directed by John Hughes. With Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward.
I don’t often stand opposed to the consensus of opinion when it comes to recognised classics, but I can’t so much as find myself a comfy spot on the fence for John Hughes’ 1986 ‘feel-good’ comedy caper Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This is one of those films you’re not allowed to dislike. Its overlying message is to embrace youth, enjoy yourself while celebrating the random opportunity of life. Saying anything negative is like kicking a puppy – people will just think you’re strange. So be it. This film annoys the living crap out of me.
Matthew Broderick (Ferris) awakens one beautiful Chicago morning and decides to feign illness to get a day off school. His parents believe him and he sets about an elaborate plan to have a memorable day.
One of my issues with Ferris Buller’s Day Off, is that the central gag is worn down to a nub. The film is painfully drawn out over the course of 102 minutes, which is a long time to keep repeating the same joke. When they do hit on a comedy moment, they overplay it. Alan Ruck’s (Ferris’ friend) prank call to the school headmaster (Jeffrey Jones) gets exhausted as it runs in to overtime. Then, as if that were not enough, they repeat the exact same gag in a restaurant 2o-mins later.
It doesn’t help that I can’t find it within myself to remotely like anything about Matthew Broderick as Ferris. The source of his comedy is predicated on him being a smart-ass. He’s supposed to be charmingly annoying, yet he’s just plain annoying. The success of the film hinges on us siding with him, yet I spent the last 40-mins willing him to get caught. Put Michael J. Fox in that role, and I’d be making different noises.
The best comedy moments are the incidental ones – the teacher (Ben Stein) fighting for the attention of his half-asleep classroom. Aside from him, Jeffrey Jones and his school secretary, Edie McClurg, the supporting characters are a collection of glorified props while the pacing is all over the place. Jennifer Grey is well and truly ‘in the corner’ as Ferris’ sister. We spend what feel like pointless scenes with her, during which she moans about her bothersome brother.
Despite sticking it out to the bitter end, I lost patience with this film long before the final credits. It begins with a sense of cheeky promise, but splutters, drags and stalls before it gets anywhere near the finish line. The idea of teenagers upstaging authority figures is nothing new in a John Hughes project, however, Home Alone and The Breakfast Club did a more endearing job of it. 2/5