Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - revisited
Can We Show The Kids?
A new series in which we return to films of the past to see how well they've aged. When that childhood favourite crops up in the Netflix recommendations, how embarrassed and befuddled are we going to feel when we make the rest of the family watch it?
Smug spoiled bourgeois brat Ferris Bueller decides to intervene in the life of his friend, depressed spoiled middle-class mope Cameron, skipping school in the company of Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane to take him on a day of low-stakes middlebrow larks in Chicago: ‘borrowing’ Cameron’s father’s midlife-crisis sports car, joining a parade, going to a <gasp> art gallery (will this belief-defying japery never end?). All this while being ineptly pursued by pompous accident-prone headteacher Rooney.
Gratuitous nudity/unsettlingly underdressed underaged cast member
The film mentions Sloane’s nudity without actually showing it.
Tart with a heart
There’s a cheerful kiss-o-gram ‘nurse’ with some rhyming single entendres.
Slapstick humiliation of the school principal as he tries to sneak into the Bueller house.
Nothing overt, but there are barely any Black characters either.
Minor heroic BAME character
A kindly Black nurse is taken in by the pretence that Sloane’s grandmother is dead and helps Sloane to escape from school.
There are even fewer gay people than Black people in ’80s Chicago. I can’t tell if the snooty maître d’ in the upscale restaurant they visit is supposed to be coded as gay, cod-European, a member of the B-52’s or all three. Jonathan Schmock does a lot with it, anyway.
Not as bad as most John Hughes films. As Ferris’ sister, Jennifer Grey’s character is a fairly one-note bitch, but Grey invests her with more than the script does.
Fail. Pretty much any conversation any female character has is about the eponymous Bueller.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Disappointing afterlife of the stars
Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey were in a car accident in Northern Ireland, apparently caused by Broderick, in which two women died. Ben Stein (the economics teacher) is a particularly unattractive kind of American conservative. Jeffrey Jones (Rooney the principal) plead no contest to ‘using a minor for prohibitive acts’ (hiring a teenage boy to post for pornographic photographs) and was ordered to register as a sex offender.
Still worth it?
It’s notable that in a film that’s ostensibly about Cameron and his issues with his family, it’s his friend Ferris who gets his name in the title. You can see why Cameron might be depressed, being saddled with such an insufferable, self-satisfied prick on a daily basis.
But what larks! Hughes did a little run of exactly this kind of lightweight teen film, with just enough angst to appear weighty and just enough sass to appear rebellious. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is probably the most fun and kinetic of them all, and consequently the most fondly remembered. Of course, like the others, it is not really either weighty or rebellious. It is a good-natured, unthreatening suburban movie for good-natured, unthreatening suburban kids.
For us Limeys, it had the added plus of being set in a Chicago suburb - unthinkably glamorous to a British kid in the ’80s. Imagine being able to get a hamburger whenever you wanted! Yellow school buses! Kiss-o-grams! What a beautiful morning in America. This is Reagan’s America, of course: all indulgent consumption and consequence-free self-regard, and Hughes is the poet laureate for this victory of the middlebrow middle-class over the studied posing of the upstart punks and ageing art-house set. Of course, it’s affectless and shallow: it’s supposed to be. This is the ’80s, after all.
AND you get Seurat, Swiss pop geniuses Yello and one-time Sonic Youth drummer Richard Edson. Oooooh yeah!
Next week: Snooker loopy, and, indeed, nuts are we