Directed by John Hughes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 surround English; 2.0 surround French
MSRP: $ 14.99
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Review Date: July 25, 2008
Let’s face it: Ferris Bueller is a jerk. Sure, he’s a teen icon for his cool, slick way of outwitting every adult in his orbit, for his take charge attitude in concocting fairly foolproof schemes for not getting caught in his lies and deceptions. But is he really someone to be admired? His needs and desires come first; those in the way of his fun either pay through humiliation, possible job loss, or other trouble. His friends are to be used for their ability to get him what he wants, but they often suffer the fallout while he coolly goes about his business. Sorry if that’s taking this breezy John Hughes-styled comedy romp Ferris Bueller's Day Off a bit too seriously, but I’ve never found it much fun. Ferris is a self-centered schemer whose plans always involve getting other people’s hands dirty. That’s never been a source of laidback entertainment for me.
High school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides it’s too pretty a day to go to school and so feigning sickness (while his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) fumes about what he’s getting away with), he maps out a day of fun for himself, best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), and girl friend Sloane (Mia Sara). In the meantime, school vice-principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) smells a rat and spends his day attempting to catch Ferris playing hooky from school (and naturally embroiling himself in a series of disasters that anyone who’s seen Hughes’ Home Alone can well imagine). The film’s only conflict is if Ferris can have his free day and yet make it back home with no one the wiser. It’s a John Hughes film; what do you think?
In his usual style, Hughes has made every adult in the film either a pompous windbag, a dimwitted fool, or both. And he’s loaded his PG-13 film with a rather surprising amount of profanity and mean-spiritedness. On the other hand, he’s staged some good sequences: a parade through the streets of Chicago stops so Ferris can lip-synch to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” pretty much brings down the house. Ferris’ elaborate safeguards against hooky detection include a mannequin in his bed and automated messages on both the answering machine and wired into his home’s intercom system. And his audacity knows no bounds at a swanky restaurant where he gets the best of a snooty maitre d’.
Matthew Broderick is perfect casting as Ferris, and he nails the smartass personality and devil-may-care attitude to perfection. Alan Ruck as longsuffering pal Cameron is even more impressive decades removed from the original release as his sensitive inner knowledge of his buddy’s not always positive influence on him comes through very clearly now. Mia Sara is an attractive but less impressive presence in the film though Jennifer Grey gets to huff and puff believably as Ferris’ jealous sibling. But the lion’s share of praise must be reserved for the human punching bag Jeffrey Jones who undergoes all kinds of abuse and embarrassment as the sneaky administrator. Sure, it’s over-the-top, but it fits perfectly in the loopy world Hughes has concocted for his little fantasy. Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward get the job done as Ferris’ unwitting parents, and Edie McClurg as the school secretary and Ben Stein as the economics teacher each get a few moments to shine.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is reproduced here in an anamorphic transfer. Obviously, Paramount is recycling old transfers for this series of reissues because the disc exhibits numerous amounts of dirt flecks and debris throughout the running time but particularly at the beginning and end. Color seems a bit pale though sharpness is adequate or a little better. There is aliasing present and some pixilation in this transfer. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround mixes vary little from one another. There is almost no rear channel activity with the music actively occupying the fronts and the dialogue in the center. Nothing of any consequence is done with the rear channels even though there were opportunities for discrete effects in the film (not only the parade but also the accident with the Ferrari late in the movie).
Director John Hughes contributes an audio commentary which is part scene description and part psychological analysis of the characters at the moments in the scene that we’re watching. He talks throughout the running time of the film, but apart from a few choice piece of information about the casting of the actors and in many cases previous work they had done with him, it’s not a particularly interesting commentary.
Enclosed in the DVD case is a Rhino CD featuring four songs from the 1980s: “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo & the Bunnymen, “Chains of Love” by Erasure, “Need You Tonight” by INKS, and “Take On Me” by a-ha.
Beloved by some (but not much by me), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a moderately entertaining teen comedy of the period. This special DVD promotion is a fairly barebones release, but if it’s only the movie you want, this is an economical way to purchase it.