Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 31, 1999

Hey, what country do you think this is?

Special features

Commentary Track6

Not quite as good as I remembered it, but still lots of fun. Ferris Bueller takes one last day off from high school and drags two friends to downtown Chicago for grand adventures. A nice disk, enhanced for widescreen and with an interesting commentary by writer/director John Hughes.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorJohn Hughes
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating7

One of the most influential movies I’ve ever seen, all children should watch it. No respect for authority figures, a complete understanding of the uselessness of high school, and cool musical standards.

The acting by Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye) was superb; Jeffrey Jones (Ed Rooney), Mia Sara (Sloane Peterson), and Matthew Broderick (in the title role of Ferris Bueller) were very good, and everyone else was more than competent. Matthew Broderick was particularly good at entering and exiting scenes. Director John Hughes considered it part of Broderick’s stage experience. Ruck and Broderick had considerable stage experience together and played very well off of each other.

Ferris Bueller has not been taking his senior year of high school very seriously. He has already taken eight sick days and is now on his ninth. His best friend Cameron Frye takes everything far too seriously. He’s probably also on his ninth or so sick day but he believes he’s really sick. Ferris calls him up and browbeats him into coming over for a great day of adventure. Cameron has a car; Ferris doesn’t (he has a computer, which he uses to break into the school’s attendance records, make digital recordings of sickness, and in some deleted scenes, take over the downtown area’s electric signs.

“When Cameron was in Egypt’s land… let my… Cameron… go.”

This movie is more about Cameron than Ferris, about breaking Cameron out of his miserable existence. The first step in that is to get him to impersonate someone with more authority than himself, in this case Sloane Peterson’s father. Sloane is Ferris’ girlfriend, and she didn’t ditch school, so they have to break her out of prison. The prison guard is well played by Del Close. (Ben Stein plays another prison guard— that is, a high school teacher.)

Second step is to get Cameron to steal his father’s car, a cherry apple-red 1961 Ferrarri convertible, of which only one hundred were made. Even Cameron’s father doesn’t drive it. It has less than two hundred miles on it. Cameron’s father loves that car more than he loves his wife or his son (at least, to hear Cameron tell it, we never hear the other side of the story).

Third step is to go out and have fun after breaking all the rules. They bluff their way into an expensive restaurant, hit a ball game, watch a parade, sing “Danke Schoen” to the city, and go to the museum. Part of making this movie was John Hughes’ desire to show off Chicago, where he grew up. He wanted to “showcase” the best parts of his memories of Chicago. If you were to put this movie and “Blues Brothers” back to back, you’d get views of different parts of Chicago, but the two movies would be hauntingly familiar: both directors showed a love for the town in their respective movies.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a nice, fun, entertaining movie. You can laugh at it, sing along with it, and almost believe the silliness in every scene. It has a cartoon quality that puts you into the story. It has a neat little message, of course, and one that everyone should pay attention to (“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t pay attention, you might miss it.”). But it doesn’t dwell on the message and it doesn’t dig too deeply. That ends up being both its success and its failure, but I count it as more of a success. I’ve watched this movie a number of times and I continue to look forward to watching it many more.

The commentary on the DVD is nice. John Hughes has some interesting stories to tell, and he points out some interesting bits to pay attention to, both in how the film was made, what he might to differently, and little goof-ups. Like the scene where they removed some palm leaves from a palm tree on the California set because Chicago doesn’t have much in the way of palm trees… but whoever removed it just tossed it into the nearest trash can, which also happened to be on camera.

Hughes has an annoying tendency to point out the blatantly obvious, such as when Rooney is putting his shoes back on, he says “And now we’re back to Ed, getting dressed”. Sometimes he follows these statements with more interesting explanations, other times he just leaves them hanging. He also has a really cool tendency to talk about not only how he chose sets and designs and wrote the movie, but how he directed the actors. That is, how he and the actors decided to play each scene. For example, when Principal Rooney is standing outside the high school with Sloane Peterson, Hughes asked Jeffrey Jones to play it like a funeral director, and then Hughes points out how Jones’ actions fit into that.

This is a fine disk. The transfer is enhanced for widescreen. It includes a decent commentary by the writer and director. It is missing some odd things, too, however. For whatever reason the ability to recall last viewed positions in the movie is disabled. And they don’t include the trailer. The latter isn’t really a big deal, but I happen to like trailers. On the other hand, they got the important stuff mostly right.

My guess is that you’ll want to watch this often enough to justify purchasing it. If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, you should at least rent it when you get the chance.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorJohn Hughes
ActorsMatthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
Special FeatureCommentary Track
More links

If you enjoyed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…

For more about Jeffrey Jones, you might also be interested in Beetlejuice.

For more about Matthew Broderick, you might also be interested in Inspector Gadget and Ladyhawke.