Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the most beloved single comedies ever made, a John Hughes classic of the highest order. It’s one of those endlessly watchable films with countless devotees who can spout the dialogue along with the film. Breaking the fourth wall has become more common nowadays, but no film can match the sheer classicness of Matthew Broderick’s conversations with the camera.
Every bit of characterization is spot-on, from Cameron’s meltdown over his father’s car’s mileage to Jeanie’s brief rendezvous with Charlie Sheen to Principal Rooney’s fruitless efforts to catch the titular delinquent in the act. Ben Stein’s memorably boring performance as an economics teacher even jump-started his acting career and typecast him with the most monotonous of personas. Yet no one steals the show like Broderick, whose character’s charming frankness, crafty connivances, and youthful vitality endeared him to audiences everywhere. His lip-syncing solo of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” aboard a parade float is the high point of the loosely-plotted shenanigans, the kind of stunning audacity that everyone wishes they could get away with.
Indeed, Ferris envy could very well be the reason for the film’s popularity. Who doesn’t want to get away with every risk and be universally liked at the same time? More people probably see themselves in Cameron (Alan Ruck), too worried about placating the oppressive and merely getting by to step out of the box. This one day in which Cameron only wanted to stay in bed, this one glorious day of ball games and art museums and eating pancreas, turns out to be the best day of his life and the day of his personal awakening. It’s the kind of day we all wish we could have.
John Hughes’s direction, at once quirky and natural, allowed the actors to grow into their roles so thoroughly that most of them are probably best known for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. When Alan Ruck took command of the Enterprise in Star Trek: Generations, I said, “Look, it’s Cameron.” When Jeffrey Jones enjoyed Mozart’s music in Amadeus, I said, “Look, it’s Principal Rooney.” It’s still influential too; Candace’s eagerness to “bust” her brothers on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb is actively reminiscent of Jennifer Grey’s attempts against Ferris, and a recent Super Bowl ad proved that Broderick’s slacker role continues to be popular. Heck, the film pioneered the after-credits scene. Few films aspire to this level of unforgettable charisma, but Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is 1980s teen comedy at its most appealing.
Best line: (Ferris Bueller) “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”Rank: 55 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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