Ferris Bueller's Day Off: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray ReviewAugust 01, 2011
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is director John Hughes's finest film.
The 20-somethings I've grown up around swear up-and-down that they can identify with John Bender in The Breakfast Club or that they've known exactly what it was like to feel like Samantha Baker in Sixteen Candles.
Hughes's early teen outings were all about angst and real-life. So why should Ferris Bueller take the crown?
Because this is a movie that thrives on whimsy. Its pulse pounds on the fuel of the way we all wish we could be. Its heartbeat is a continual rhythm of "Why-not? Why-not? Why-not?"
Am I overselling it a bit? Probably. But that's the kind of empowerment you feel after watching a flick like this.
You learn all you need to know about the movie from its title: Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick in what remains his absolute best role) is a high school senior who decides that it's just too beautiful a day to go to school. So he fakes an illness (sweaty palms are the key, he tells us) and, along with his neurotic best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), takes the day off.
The world is full of buzz kills, though. The dean of students at Ferris's school (played with wonderful smarminess by Jeffery Jones) sets out on a quest to catch Ferris, easily the most popular kid in school, and make an example of him before the entire student body.
And then there's his sister Jeanie (a pre-Dirty Dancing Jennifer Grey) who wants Ferris caught simply because he gets away with everything.
Despite the forces trying to shut them down, Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane set out on an adventure throughout Chicago. Well, adventure might be a strong word. They set out on a leisurely day of hanging out in various places around Chicago, and in the course of the day all three (Cameron in particular) wind up learning a little something about themselves.
I spoke earlier about whimsy, and this movie is positively dripping with it.
It's all ridiculous, but Broderick infuses Ferris with so much self-confidence and such exuberance for doing whatever feels right at any given time that the audience is more than inclined to follow his lead and just go with it.
But while Ferris might be the eponymous character and the guy we all WANT to be, the movie in some ways truly belongs to Alan Ruck as Cameron, because Cameron's the guy we all are. He's the guy in the backseat (literally) who tries once or twice to be the voice of reason but gets halfway through the sentence before realizing it won't get him anywhere. If Ferris is the heart of the movie, then Cameron is the overactive brain, constantly worrying about what might happen next.
Somewhere in the middle is Sloane, who embraces Ferris's devil-may-care flippancy while staying grounded enough to identify with Cameron's sheer skittishness.
Jones and Grey are both excellent in their respective roles, and when the two collide late in the movie, it's pure comedy gold.
Ferris Bueller is a movie full of moments as well, from Ferris lip-syncing The Beatles' Twist and Shout' in the middle of a parade to the all-too-familiar monotone of Ben Stein, as the economics teacher, performing roll call. "Bueller? Bueller?"
And for all the great dialogue in his other movies, Hughes's script for this picture shines. Whereas he was depicting life as it is in The Breakfast Club, you get the sense while watching Ferris that Hughes was writing this script in every bit as cavalier a mood as its title character lives through his day off.
This was essentially Hughes's swan song in terms of teen comedies, and the man left the genre on the highest of high notes possible.
As many high praises are there are to sing about the movie itself, the tune drops an octave or two when it comes to the film's presentation (the 25th anniversary presentation, at that).
This is essentially a repackaging of the already-released Bueller ... Bueller Edition DVD from 2005 which, in turn, was repackaged for its initial Blu-ray release in 2009, so there's nothing new to talk about here.
The movie is presented in 1080p/AVC and, for the most part, it looks great. The entire film takes place during the day, and there aren't many dark scenes, so black definition never really becomes an issue. Also, the picture as a whole is a big improvement over its DVD release. It's very clean, and there's rarely anything to complain about.
"Rarely." Not "never."
It looks as good as a 25-year-old movie can look, but while there are no dark scenes, per se, there are a handful of dimly lit ones where grain and noise become a little too apparent for comfort.
There's also an issue when the very brightest of scenes tend to cause the images to go soft, and skin tones get thrown off occasionally.
As for the sound, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is pretty decent. It's a Hughes flick, so it's dialogue heavy, and nearly every line gets through with minimal interference. However, whenever music or sound effects are laid on top of or underneath the dialogue, the mix does tend to go out of balance a bit.
On the whole, though, both the video and audio are more than adequate.
Beyond the Feature
Again, this is a mere reissuing of an already-released edition and, much as Universal did with The Blues Brothers, Paramount did nothing to beef up the special features on the disc.
Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (27 minutes, 2005) An interesting look at the task of assembling the cast, featuring interviews from cast and crew (including archived interviews from the late Hughes).
The Making of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (15 minutes, 2005) A very brief retrospective from the cast and crew about producing the film itself. Save a few interesting tidbits from Hughes about the film's conception, there's not much to write home about here.
Who is Ferris Bueller? (10 minutes, 2005) Interviews from the cast regarding what the character of Ferris Bueller means to them and the integral part Broderick played in bringing him to life. I could have done with another 10 or 15 minutes on this one. A lot of the sound bites from this feature were pretty fascinating and deserved a little more attention.
The World According to Ben Stein (10 minutes, 2005) Ben Stein talks about what the film meant to both him and his career. Again, it seemed like there was potential for this to be more than just a throwaway feature.
Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (10 minutes, 2005) Compiled in 2005 but filmed during production, this is a collection of cast members chit-chatting about their thought processes while making the film.
Class Album A gallery of promotional photos of the three main stars of the picture.
Ferris Bueller is the pinnacle of the teen comedy. It's funny and smart, but it's never raunchy; and not because it's too good or too classy to be. It just doesn't need to be raunchy.
The one thing that is new for this release is the Fold-out Slip Cover which features a map of Chicago and marks all the places visited in the film.
To sum up Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it's one of those goofy inspirational posters with a cat hanging from a tree, except it makes you think, it makes you laugh, and it makes you dream.
That's the artsy way to look at it. The financial way to look at it? Unless you don't already own this flick on Blu-ray (which, to quote the sentiment I always take away from this flick, "Why not?"), there's no real need to pick it up.
Unless you REALLY want that 25th Anniversary sticker Paramount slapped on the box.
- Jason Jarman
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