Posted in: Disc Reviews by M. W. Phillips on August 10th, 2011
“The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.”
John Hughes was enjoying a creative peak in the 80s. He owned the teen coming-of-age genre with movies like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck. Hughes wrote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in less than a week to avoid a writers’ strike. The film was shot for a budget of $6 million as a love letter to Chicago. It is arguably his finest movie.
The story is simple. Ferris Bueller (a brilliantly charming Mathew Broderick) is an impossibly popular, tremendously trendsetting con artist who manipulates the majority of his peers into believing he can do no wrong. Within the contemptuous minority who see through his guile, enemies watch guys like Ferris waiting for him to slip up waiting for their chance to pounce. Not because of anything Ferris did to them, but because they resent how effortlessly cool he is and how utterly uncool they are. In this hilarious battle of wits, John Hughes created a masterpiece as effortlessly cool as Ferris himself.
The film follows Ferris’ spring-fevered adventures cutting school with his hypochondriac best friend, Cameron Frye (wonderfully dour and goofy Alan Ruck), and his hot cheerleader girlfriend, Slaone Peterson (Mia Sara at her sexy cutest). Ferris needs to lift Cameron’s spirits out of the hell of parental abuse and wants to show his girlfriend the highlights of Chicago. Together they escape in Cameron’s father’s most prized trophy, a cherry 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider.
Leaving school far behind, represented famously by droning economics teacher Ben Stein (“Bueller? Bueller?”), they take in a game at Wrigley Field; visit the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; and ride a float in the Von Steuben Day Parade, with Ferris lip-syncing to Danke Schoen and The Beatles’ version of Twist and Shout. Ferris even grifts his way into the upscale restaurant as Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, dining while dodging his father meeting with business associates over lunch.
Enter the above mentioned contemptuous minority, The Dean of Students, (a hilarious Jeffery Jones) and Ferris’ sister, Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) are onto Ferris’ machinations and determined to bust him, leading to a series of brilliant misadventures and near misses. Some wonderful bit parts like Charlie Sheen as a slacker delinquent in a police station, Richard Edson as a parking-garage attendant, Edie McClurg as Mr. Rooney’s secretary, and Jonathan Schmock as a snobbish maitre d’ fill out the story with iconic characterizations.
In many ways Ferris Bueller’s Day Off serves as commentary on Generation X – the unfairly stereotyped as cynical and lazy 80s generation – and Bueller serves as a sort of figurehead of that movement. He is tired of repression and steps in to embrace life at its fullest no matter the consequences. Frankly, as is the case with his type of hustler, he suffers no consequences and seizes every moment reveal the beauty, magic and wonder of the world around us if we would just open our eyes to see it.
Shot using Panaflex cameras and lenses on Super 35mm film which makes for a excellent full 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 Disc in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio running an average of 38Mbps. The film grain is obvious, but you would expect this from the retro 80s film stock. This is easily the finest transfer and many leagues beyond previous DVD releases. The detail now present is remarkable. Colors are rich and bright, the black level is solid, and the flesh tones are accurate. Director of photography, Tak Fujimoto (Silence of the Lambs, Sixth Sense) gives the shots a locked-down but poetic nature. There are some minor scratches and blemishes that another restoration might eventually fix, but this is by far the best quality we’re going to see any time soon.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off twists and shouts with a surprisingly effective Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There is a definite clarity in the small details and an immersive sense of space. The pop music soundtrack plays with a lucidity and presence that gives the film new sonic life. The music is beautifully mixed and nicely balanced with the dialog. There are very few subwoofer notes which is to be expected with this era of film. The crowd scenes play beautifully in surround, filling out with previously unheard details. Paramount once again does a great job mastering audio to Blu-ray.
All the special features were recycled from previous DVD releases, presented in Standard Definition video (using MPEG-2) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound @224kbps.
- Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (27:45) Fun and illuminating interviews with cast and crew. Hughes originally considered John Cussack for Ferris!
- The Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (15:29) basic straight-forward “making of” electronic press kit style featurette. Behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew members, including a short interview with writer/director John Hughes.
- Who is Ferris Bueller? (9:12) find out writer/director John Hughes and star Matthew Broderick’s, as well as cast and crews, views on the character.
- The World According to Ben Stein (10:51) covers his illustrious career and how he came to be cast in the film. Explore why his lines became pop-culture catch phrases.
- Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (10:16) old on-set interview footage with Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara and Alan Ruck.
- “Class Album” a slide show of promo pics.
There is raw honesty in Hughes’ screenplay, perhaps because of the short time involved in writing it. The emotions feel natural, from the lows of Cameron’s depression to the manic triumphs of Ferris’ kindhearted mischief. Although filled with eighties style and spunk, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off doesn’t feel dated. We all have met a Ferris in high school, and if we haven’t, we need to be kidnapped in a red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider and introduced to one. This is a true teen masterpiece.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t come to the door right now. I’m afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences. You can reach my parents at their places of business. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your concern for my well-being. Have a nice day!”