Director: John Hughes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck
Screenplay: John Hughes
104 mins. Rated PG-13.
Apparently, today is Ferris Bueller’s Actual Day Off, or at least the best approximation. There’s no set date but research was done that June 5 as the most likely day that Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, The Producers, Wonder Park) took off back in the 80s, and it seems a good time to actually celebrate this day in honor of all the kids who didn’t get to skip school in 2020 because school was skipped for them.
Ferris Bueller is the most popular kid in school, and he’s decided to take a day off of school by faking sick. His best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck, Twister, TV’s Succession), is out of class today as well because he can’t find a reason to get out of bed. Ferris convinces his buddy to partake in a day’s adventure in Chicago alongside Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, Timecop, Daughter of Darkness), all the while evading his parents and school principal Ed Rooney, who has a vendetta against Bueller.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has a mood all its own, and there are elements of it in other John Hughes (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Breakfast Club), it stands all on its own. With the inclusion of Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” a song that wasn’t in the pop culture landscape before its release, this film is every high school student’s dream movie. I saw it for the first time as a child, and I said to myself, “That’s going to be me one day.” Long story short, it wasn’t. More often than not, I was Cameron. There were moments of Ferris, but I leaned into Cameron too.
That’s what is so great about the characters in this film. At times, we are all a Ferris and we are all a Cameron. Broderick finds a way to make a wildly unrealistic character like Ferris into an incredibly relatable idol. He’s a guy who has an answer for every situation, but he also finds himself taking advantage of those around him that doesn’t always have solid consequences. When he confronts some of his own faults later in the film, and he finds that his skills don’t always work, he has to let go of his ego…slightly.
Cameron is another character that, while relatable, could have been very annoying. Cameron is the kind of character that isn’t always easy to translate, but having suffered with confidence and self-worth in the past, his arc works quite well. He’s struggling the whole film with trying to find his worth and trying to connect with a distant parent, and all of Ferris’s pokes and prods are unable to empower him. Cameron’s strength needs to come from within, but he is unable to bring it forth.
The question comes up a lot as to who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist of the film, and I guess there’s no clear answer. While some would call Cameron the protagonist and Ferris the antagonist, I would go the simpler route of protagonist Ferris as the protagonist and Rooney as the antagonist. There’s even talk about whether or not Ferris is even real or just an imagined friend for Cameron. That’s a lot of crazy talk. Ferris the protagonist who gets the ball rolling on the plot and Rooney is a classic antagonist. Rooney is not inherently a bad guy but he is against Ferris.
None of that matters, though, because however you choose to see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s a damn enjoyable film. It’s very unrealistic, but writer/director John Hughes pulls off a movie that works on so many levels. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it takes advantage of a interesting world (is the Shermerverse a thing?) of fun characters and uniquely-tense situations. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is worth revisiting or seeing for the first time. It hasn’t even aged all that much. See it now. Go on, take the day off.
-Kyle A. Goethe