I Have Never Seen ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’

By  · Published on August 28th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.

It’s almost like it was fate. I got sick (for real) and had to take off work on the day that I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the very first time. I wasn’t kidney transplant sick, just obnoxious sinus infection/cold sick. So I could empathize with both Ferris’s attempts to “prove” his illness (mine includes a pretty hard to fake hacking cough) and Cameron’s actual illness. Until it disappears, I guess. Was he even sick or just that much of a sad sack? I still don’t know.

That’s actually a good place to pick up: One of my few complaints of the film is, uh, I’m super worried about Cameron, and the movie never really comes back to him after he purposefully trashes his dad’s car then then accidentally trashes his dad’s car. Like, that dude was very clearly depressed and we’re left hanging on what happened when he has to explain that he destroyed his dad’s supercar. I’m just going to assume that his dad brutally murdered him and John Hughes felt it too tragic to mention. No sense in ruining an otherwise happy ending with a horrible case of filicide, right?

Cameron’s untimely death aside (I’m just going to go ahead and declare that to be Ferris Bueller canon, because no one can stop me), I was really impressed with how this film was so many things at once, and all of them successful. Let me explain.

First off, it’s a movie that could only be made in the ’80s. While this might seem like an obvious statement, let’s really think about what that means for a moment. The technology leap alone would kill the film. Two words: Caller ID. That’s not even touching things like GPS and how seriously schools take truancy now. Let’s not ignore that Ferris, Cameron and Sloane are all seemingly upper middle class kids. You wouldn’t see that in a million years today.

It was also kind of a proto-slacker film. We’re Real Grown Ups With Real Feelings and The Man Can’t Hold Us Down, that kind of thing. Ferris Bueller feels like it has more in common with Reality Bites or Floundering than its contemporaries. From Ferris’ confused anti-education rant at the film’s beginning to Cameron’s realizations about his relationship with his father (before his father violently ended his young life), it really captured something that was only just beginning to emerge: Generation X pessimism and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

And then it’s a beautiful “love letter” (Hughes’ own words) to the city of Chicago. If Baltimore counts as a character on The Wire, then Chicago definitely deserves a special guest appearance here. Wrigley Field, the Sears Tower (or whatever they’re calling it now), the Art Institute of Chicago… really, Hughes could have just made a Chicago travel documentary with Matthew Broderick and gotten the same results. Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.

But one of the most interesting things the film pulls off is the general lack of goals in the plot. Ferris Bueller and his friend don’t go to school. That’s about it. Genuinely, the whole movie is a series of moderately connected comedy vignettes.

Jeanie, Ferris’s sister, ends up in jail, and we don’t find out why for several minutes until she mentions (to a young Charlie Sheen, no less) that the cops picked her up because they thought her call was a prank.

Mr. Rooney tries to catch Ferris and continuously fails meep-meep style in a series of cartoonish shorts. Ferris and his crew visit various sites around Chicago and do silly things. Ferris’ sister finds new reasons to be pissed off. Ferris’ parents are blissfully unaware of pretty much everything. The film’s scenes are only barely strung together, and yet it works fantastically. One of the funniest storylines was the continuing adventures of the parking garage valet and his buddy. Totally unrelated to the rest of the film, but totally hilarious as well. They need a spin-off.

It’s almost like a TV show’s best bits carved up into a 100-minute film. You know things happen in-between, but this way you’re getting the overview, a kind of disconnected sense of the fleeting lives of these kids who had one not-boring day in the middle of 1985.

To read more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog. If you want to suggest movies for him to watch, e-mail [email protected].