Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Released:  1986

Cast:  Matthew Broderck, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey

SUMMARY:  Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a high school senior in Chicago who periodically skips school in an attempt to have more fun.  On this particular day, Ferris pretends to be sick, and convinces both of his parents – but not his suspicious and aggravated sister, Jeannie (Jennifer Jones).  As soon as his family leaves the house, Ferris is up and around, and soon calls his best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck).  Cameron is a hypochondriac, who is currently in bed, thinking he is desperately sick.  However, Cameron has a car, while Ferris does not; with a great deal of effort, Ferris coerces him to get out of bed and come over.  Their first task is Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), their school’s dean of students:  because Ferris has already missed nine days of school, Rooney does not believe that he is really sick, and is determined to prove this.  In order to get Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), out of school, Cameron calls in and pretends to be her father, saying that her grandmother has died.  Rooney is convinced that the caller is Ferris, and begins insulting and threatening him; Ferris then calls in on another line as himself.  Rooney is horrified at this supposed misstep, and vehemently apologizes to Sloane’s “father”.  He then personally escorts her out of class, where a disguised Ferris and Cameron are waiting to pick her up.  The boys have taken Cameron’s father’s vintage Ferrari, to the dismay of Cameron, who says that his father loves the car more than him.  Ferris promises that they will take the miles back off the car at the end of the day by driving backwards.  After retrieving Sloane, the three go into Chicago, leave the car with a parking garage attendant (who immediately takes off on a joyride), and set out to see the major sights in Chicago.  They go to the top of the Sears Tower (then the tallest building in America) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange before having lunch at an exclusive restaurant, where Ferris again uses his powers of deception to convince the maitre’d that he is a wealthy, important man.  After lunch (during which they are nearly spotted by Ferris’ father), they briefly go to a Cubs game, then to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Toward the end of the day, Cameron announces that he has not seen anything good that day, and has not enjoyed himself at all.  Ferris promptly stops their cab and joins in the Von Steuben Day Parade, which is going on around them.  He somehow gets onto one of the floats, and lip-synchs “Danke Schoen” after dedicating the song to Cameron.  He then segues into “Twist and Shout”, and gets the crowd so excited that they all start singing and dancing with them (Ferris’ father joins in from his office, unaware that his son is the source of the excitement).  Back at school, the rumor mill (helped by Ferris himself) has escalated his illness into a life-threatening situation, which requires him to get a new kidney.  Jeannie is disgusted by the widespread sympathy for her brother, and is desperate to prove that he is faking.  She rushes home and discovers that Ferris is not there, even though he has rigged up an elaborate system to convince people that he is (including a mannequin under the covers, a recording of snoring, and another recording to “answer” the door).  Jeannie is unaware that Mr. Rooney has also been at the house, trying to find Ferris, but had been stopped by the locked doors.  When he tried to go through the dog door, he was attacked by the family’s Rottweiler.  When Jeannie comes home, Rooney uses the unlocked front door to enter the house; Jeannie hears the noise, comes downstairs to investigate, and believing that Rooney is a burglar, knocks him out.  She then hides in her room and calls the police, but Rooney comes to and leaves before they arrive (he’s chasing down his car, which is being towed).  When the police do arrive, they take Jeannie to the station for making a false report.  Her irate mother comes to pick her up, only to find Jeannie making out with a juvenile delinquent she has just met (Charlie Sheen).  Meanwhile, Ferris and his friends have retrieved the Ferrari, but discover the results of the joyride on the car’s odometer.  Cameron goes into shock and becomes completely unresponsive until he falls headfirst into his swimming pool, and is fished out by Ferris.  The boys jack up the car and run it in reverse, but discover that the miles are not coming off.  Surprisingly, Cameron to simply tell his father the truth about what happened with the car, saying that he has let his fear of his father dominate his life.  He then gets angry and starts to kick the car, eventually moving it off the jack and sending it out through the wall of the garage, where it goes over a small cliff.  A shocked Ferris tells Cameron that he will take all the blame for the car’s condition, but Cameron again surprised them by standing by his decision to face his father.  A few minutes before six o’clock, Ferris leisurely walks Sloane home.  However, when he realizes what time it is, he is forced to rush home, in order to keep his parents from finding out that he faked the illness.  During this flight, he is nearly hit by Jeannie, who is driving home with their mother.  Jeannie realizes that she has one last chance to prove that Ferris was lying, and drives home at top speed.  Ferris makes it home first by only a few minutes, but is stopped at the back door by Rooney, who has been waiting for him.  The disheveled Rooney promises Ferris and extra year of high school, but to the shock of both of them, Jeannie opens the back door and vouches for Ferris.  He rushes upstairs to beat their parents; Jeannie then hands Rooney his wallet, which he had dropped on the kitchen floor (proving that he had been the intruder who so scared her).  Ferris makes it back into bed just before his parents come in, and completely convinces them that he has been sleeping in his room all day.

MY TAKE:  I was surprised that I liked this movie, because I didn’t really the first time I watched it.  This time, I found it a lot more amusing.  It reminded me a lot of Home Alone, which was also written and directed by John Hughes.  The gist of the story is similar:  a young man takes on what seems to be a superior enemy:  in the case of Kevin McAlister, it’s the robbers; in Ferris’ case, it’s his sister and Rooney.  In both cases, the underdog makes complete fools of his adversaries.  While some of this is pure luck (like Rooney being attacked by the family’s dog), quite a bit of it is because of the cleverness of the main character, which makes it even more fun to watch.  When people call Ferris’ bluff, instead of backing off he pushes further.  Usually, this actually convinces them – he does it on the phone with Rooney, then later at the restaurant.  His ability to get himself and his friends out of scrapes and tricky situations is amazing, and is probably what has made him a legend at his school.  As fun as it is to watch Ferris, I actually preferred watching Jeannie.  Jennifer Grey is most famous for her turn as Baby in Dirty Dancing, which was released the year after this movie.  In that film, her character is rather meek and reserved, so it’s a lot of fun to see her cut loose in this movie.  She’s a bit like the evil twin, who calls Ferris all sorts of names, flips him the bird, and is generally pissed off (which is actually really funny).  I found myself laughing every time she appeared in a scene.

RATING:  Amusing and entertaining.

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