Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

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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

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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7 Responses to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I wonder if you always felt this negative about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or did that come with subsequent viewings in adulthood? Alas, I have always enjoyed this film, and the perhaps at-times plodding characterization or narrative stream are blinkered against my nostalgia. This, of course, is my downfall: I simply cannot look at this film afresh and, so, it remains wonderful and silly.

    I always like your writing, though.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much. Great response. I did see it when I was younger, and I remember being baffled by its popularity back then. I revisited it to see if I had missed the point. I don’t think I did. I think the 15yr old me was bang on the money. I found it boring. The scene in which an entire crowd bows to him as he mimes ‘Twist and Shout’. The repeated gags. The uneven pacing. The pointless Jennifer Grey character. So many spare, blunt elements. I love how subjective films are, though. I’m glad that it is a film that has enriched people’s lives and I realise I’m in the minority with my opinion, but it does nothing for me.

      • Well, “enriched” may be pushing it (for me, at least), but I never saw it as boring. More than anything, I saw it as a collection of funny scenes, insofar people would say after: did you like the Twist and Shout bit or the crashing care scene at the end more? That kind of thing. For me, the droning teacher is exceptionally funny (as you point out) and a – relatively – subtle glimpse of humour in a preposterous film that seems to fulfill the dreams of many kids: being cool, getting the girl, driving a cool car, pranking… and never getting caught.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I wish that I could have enjoyed those aspects of it. I see them laid out in front of me, but It felt like going through the motions. It’s a shame not be able to speak more highly of it. I’m not usually one for going against the grain. Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I’m glad to have the opposing view on here.

  2. Laura says:

    Ha! I love that you hate this film. I always liked it and consider it to be one of those 80s teen classics, but…BUT…I concur that Ferris is irritating, and I think he’s hard to empathise with. He’s a smart-arse and I wanted him to get caught.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Hi Laura, great to hear from you. The subjectivity of films constantly amazes me. I don’t usually kick up a stink about a classic film, and I came to Ferris Bueller’s hoping for a great time. It almost annoys me that I was annoyed by it, if you get what I mean. Matthew Broderick just did my head in. I’m not sure I’ll ever see him the same way again. His smug, self-satisfied face. He’s exactly the sort of annoying kid I hated at school. Agh!

      Michael J. Fox’s Day off would have been a timeless classic.

  3. Laura says:

    Also, Michael J. Fox’s Day Off would have been AWESOME!

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