Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an incredibly enjoyable escapism film, one where there isn’t a dull moment or character. It takes a very simple premise — three kids skip school — and transforms it into a film of pure fun. It’s energetic, inventive and surprisingly wholesome. These kids are innocent, essentially, and do not engage in illicit activities; they simply want to have good, innocent fun. So does the movie. In that, it is successful.
Our opening scene establishes almost everything we need to know about Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). He convinces his parents that he’s too sick to go to school, and then turns directly to the camera and explains how and why he did it. He’s almost out of high school, meaning the opportunity to take a day like this has almost passed him by. After some scheming and convincing, he manages to get his depressed friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck), and his girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara), to come with him on the ride of his life.
And what a ride it is! Set in Chicago, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off takes us through some of the major landmarks of the city: Wrigley Field, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Sears Tower — even a parade gets involved. They go all over the city, having as much fun as they can, and hoping at every instant that they don’t get caught. Meanwhile, the school’s Dean of Students, Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), is trying to find a way to expose Bueller for the faker that he is. He’s the villain of the picture, even though he’s really just doing his job.
What follows is a pleasant movie in which there are thrills, laughs, and many moments of happiness. It’s truly a feel-good film, which is always a plus for something like this. It has a message — repeated twice, in case you miss it — it wants you to think while it plays, and it’s really, really enjoyable. It also has a heart, something missing from so many movies, and it makes you care about these characters, even though many of them aren’t likable. That takes talent, something that writer-director John Hughes certainly has.
When you get right down to it, the characters, and the fun that they have, are the reason that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is as enjoyable as it is. We have Ferris, the charismatic young man who makes everything possible. Why does he do this? Well, his friend, Cameron, his opposite in every way, hasn’t had much fun in life thus far. He wants to give Cameron the day of his life, and maybe teach him — and us — a lesson or two about how to live your life. This is a coming-of-age movie, but it’s not Ferris who needs to do the growing.
What begins somewhat realistically soon turns into fantasy, and before you know it, it’s hard to discern how much of the story actually happens. That doesn’t make it less fun — I know I was kept entertained throughout — but some of the sequences are a bit too far-fetched to truly believe in. The bounty hunter approach of the dean, the parade musical numbers, and so on are all almost supernatural. That’s what makes it an escapist film. It’s really better if you don’t think too hardly about the events inside of the film; instead, just let it pass over you and take you for an enjoyable trip.
You can’t help but idolize Ferris Bueller. He’s exactly the type of person that most teenagers, and even many grownups, aspire to be. Assured, confident and charismatic, despite the troublemaker side, which never lands him in serious trouble. When you’re Ferris Bueller, you know that everything will work out in the end. As an audience, you watch this character and fantasize about being him.
I wasn’t entirely sold on Ferris continually breaking the fourth wall. Not because it isn’t funny, clever, or telling, but because it’s a technique that loses its usage as we progress. At the beginning, it’s used all the time. Near the end, it barely happens. It’s a different way of giving us voice-over narration, something used more often than not as a crux, but here it’s used to tell us something about him and his situation, or to make us laugh. Usually both. I wanted more of it, by the end, not less. Thankfully, if you watch through the credits, you get to see it one final time, to great effect.
Broderick is the perfect type of actor for this role, and it makes sense considering it was written with him in mind. He has the type of charm that’s required, and the smile that makes you know it’ll all be fine. Alan Ruck, as the depressed Cameron who needs to start looking at life in a different way, is suitable, although nowhere near the presence of Broderick. Mia Sara is cute as the girlfriend, although she has the least developed role.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a very fun time. There are no dull moments, no unenjoyable interactions — there isn’t a single portion of this movie that I would want cut out. It has a message, some interesting characters, and simply works as an escapist fantasy. Fun is something that many movies overlook, but that’s the focus of this one. It also has a heart, and you really begin to care about these characters, even in spite of some of their actions. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is absolutely worth watching.