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|Ferris Bueller's Day Off|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Hughes|
|Produced by||John Hughes|
|Written by||John Hughes|
|Music by||Ira Newborn|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||103 minutes|
|Ferris Bueller's Day Off|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Hughes|
|Produced by||John Hughes|
|Written by||John Hughes|
|Music by||Ira Newborn|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||103 minutes|
The film follows high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), who decides to skip school and spend the day in downtown Chicago. Accompanied by his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), he creatively avoids his school's Dean of Students Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), his resentful sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), and his parents. During the film, Bueller frequently breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera to explain to the audience his techniques and thoughts.
Hughes wrote the screenplay in less than a week and shot the film—on a budget of $5.8 million—over several months in late 1985. Featuring many famous Chicago landmarks including the then Sears Tower and the Art Institute of Chicago, the film was Hughes' love letter to the city: "I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could. Not just in the architecture and landscape, but the spirit."
As the movie opens, high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides to skip school on a nice spring day by faking an illness to his parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett), then encourages his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and his pessimistic best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) to spend the day in Chicago as one of their last flings before they head off to different colleges. Ferris persuades Cameron to let them use his father's prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible to drive into the city. The rest of the school and many residents learn of Ferris' exaggerated illness and offer donations to help "Save Ferris". Only two people are not convinced by Ferris's deception: his often sarcastic sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), outraged at Ferris's ability to defy authority easily, and the school's Dean of Students, Edward Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), who believes Ferris to be truant.
Ferris and his friends arrive downtown and leave the Ferrari with two garage attendants, who drive off in it, and take it for a joyride a short time later. Ferris, Sloane and Cameron enjoy many sights of the city, including a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, visits to the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as well as taking part in the Von Steuben Day Parade, considered the German-American event of the year, where Ferris lip-syncs to "Danke Schoen" and The Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout" while riding on a parade float. Ferris even uses his ploys to pretend he is Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, to dine at an upscale restaurant, Chez Quis, while narrowly avoiding his father, who is on his way to lunch with business associates.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rooney goes off-campus to try to find Ferris, first at a local hangout, then at Ferris's home. He tries to gain entry but gets stuck in the mud and loses his shoe while being chased by the family's dog. He eventually gains access but Jeanie comes home trying to find Ferris and discovers Mr. Rooney in the kitchen, mistaking him for a burglar. She high-kicks him in the face and runs upstairs to call the police. This forces Mr. Rooney to flee the scene, dropping his wallet in the process. When the police show up, they take Jeanie in for prank calling and while at the police station, she talks to a drug addict (Charlie Sheen), who tells her that she needs to stop worrying so much about Ferris and more about herself. Jeanie becomes increasingly annoyed with the addict but is found kissing him when her mother arrives to pick her up, upset at having to do so.
At the end of the day, Ferris and his friends retrieve the Ferrari, but discover on the way home that nearly two hundred miles have been added to the odometer. This sends Cameron into a panic and Ferris says to the audience, "This is where Cameron goes berserk" just before Cameron emits a scream of terror, fearing his father's reaction. Cameron goes temporarily catatonic, and tries to drown himself in the neighbor's pool before Ferris saves him. After calming him down, Ferris comes up with a plan to run the car's engine in reverse inside Cameron's father's hillside garage, hoping to undo the mileage on the odometer. When they realize this is not working, Cameron unleashes his pent-up anger against his father, kicking and damaging the front of the Ferrari. He realizes it is high time to stand up to his father and vows to accept the consequences of the damage he has done. He calms down and leans against the car, which is still running in reverse gear, and it falls off the jack and crashes through the glass wall of the garage, landing in a ravine behind the house. Despite Ferris' offer to take the blame, Cameron still plans to "take the heat" and admit his actions to his father.
Ferris walks Sloane home, before realizing he must get home within five minutes. He then races through the backyards of his neighborhood to get back home before his parents. Along the way, he has several close encounters with his family members driving home, but his parents do not notice him. When he arrives home, he is unable to find the house key under the doormat and instead finds Mr. Rooney with the key, saying "Looking for this?" Mr. Rooney then explains to Ferris how he has waited for this day and tells him to expect another year of high school. However, Jeanie finds the two, thanks Mr. Rooney for "driving Ferris back from the hospital" and shows him the wallet that he left behind when he broke in earlier, throwing it in the mud. Mr. Rooney gets attacked by the dog, leaving Ferris with enough time to get back into bed just before his parents check on him.
As the credits are rolling, Mr. Rooney, in his disheveled state, is invited by a bus driver to hitch a ride back to school on a school bus as it drives students home. Later, at the end of the credits, Ferris emerges from the bathroom, saying directly to the audience, "You're still here? It's over. Go home. Go!"
John Hughes said that he had Broderick in mind when he wrote the screenplay, saying Broderick was the only actor he could think of who could pull the role off, calling him clever, smart, and charming. "Certain guys would have played Ferris and you would have thought, 'Where's my wallet?'" Hughes said. "I had to have that look; that charm had to come through. Jimmy Stewart could have played Ferris at 15...I needed Matthew."
Mia Sara surprised John Hughes when she auditioned for the role of Sloane Peterson. "It was funny. He didn't know how old I was and said he wanted an older girl to play the 17-year-old. He said it would take someone older to give her the kind of dignity she needed. He almost fell out of his chair when I told him I was only 18." Molly Ringwald had also wanted to play Sloane, but according to Ringwald, "John wouldn't let me do it: he said that the part wasn't big enough for me."
Alan Ruck had previously auditioned for the Bender role in The Breakfast Club which went to Judd Nelson, but Hughes remembered Ruck and cast him as the 17-year-old Cameron Frye. According to Hughes, the character of Cameron was based, in large part, on a friend of his in high school. "He was sort of a lost person. His family neglected him, so he took that as license to really pamper himself. When he was legitimately sick, he actually felt good, because it was difficult and tiring to have to invent diseases but when he actually had something, he was relaxed." Ruck said the role of Cameron had originally been offered to Emilio Estevez who turned it down. "Every time I see Emilio, I want to kiss him", said Ruck. "Thank you!" Ruck, then 29, worried about the age difference. "I was worried that I'd be 10 years out of step, and I wouldn't know anything about what was cool, what was hip, all that junk. But when I was going to high school, I didn't know any of that stuff then, either. So I just thought, well, hell—I'll just be me. The character, he's such a loner that he really wouldn't give a damn about that stuff anyway. He'd feel guilty that he didn't know it, but that's it." Ruck wasn't surprised to find himself cast young. "No, because, really, when I was 18, I sort of looked 12", he said. "Maybe it's a genetic imbalance."
Ruck and Broderick had previously acted together in the Broadway production of Biloxi Blues. Cameron's Mr. Peterson voice was an in-joke imitation of their former director Gene Saks. Ruck felt at ease working with Broderick, often crashing in his trailer. "We didn't have to invent an instant friendship like you often have to do in a movie", said Ruck. "We were friends."
Subsequently, Ruck says that with Cameron Frye, Hughes gave him "the best part I ever had in a movie, and any success that I've had since 1985 is because he took a big chance on me. I'll be forever grateful." "While we were making the movie, I just knew I had a really good part", Ruck says. "My realization of John's impact on the teen-comedy genre crept in sometime later. Teen comedies tend to dwell on the ridiculous, as a rule. It's always the preoccupation with sex and the self-involvement, and we kind of hold the kids up for ridicule in a way. Hughes added this element of dignity. He was an advocate for teenagers as complete human beings, and he honored their hopes and their dreams. That's what you see in his movies."
Jeffrey Jones was cast based on his role in Amadeus, where he played the emperor; Hughes thought that character's modern equivalent was Rooney. "My part was actually quite small in the script, but what seemed to be the important part to me was that I was the only one who wasn't swept along by Ferris", recalls Jones. "So I was the only one in opposition, which presented a lot of opportunities, some of which weren't even in the script or were expanded on. John was receptive to anything I had to offer, and indeed got ideas along the way himself. So that was fun, working with him." "Hughes told me at the time — and I thought he was just blowing his own horn — he said, 'You are going to be known for this for the rest of your life.' And I thought, 'Sure'... but he was right."
Ben Stein says he got the role of Bueller's Economics teacher through six degrees of separation. "Richard Nixon introduced me to a man named Bill Safire, who's a New York Times columnist. He introduced me to a guy who's an executive at Warner Brothers. He introduced me to a guy who's a casting director. He introduced me to John Hughes. John Hughes and I are among the only Republicans in the picture business, and John Hughes put me in the movie", Stein said. Hughes said that Stein was an easy and early choice for the role of the teacher: "He wasn't a professional actor. He had a flat voice, he looked like a teacher."
As he was writing the film in 1985, Hughes kept track of his progress in a spiral-bound logbook. He noted that the basic storyline was developed on February 25. It was successfully pitched the following day to Paramount Studios chief Ned Tanen. Tanen was intrigued by the concept, but wary that the Writers Guild of America was hours away from picketing the studio. Hughes wrote the screenplay in less than a week, as his logbook notes: "2–26 Night only 10 pages ... 2–27 26 pages ... 2–28 19 pages ... 3–1 9 pages ... 3–2 20 pages ... 3–3 24 pages." Editor Paul Hirsch explained that Hughes had a trance-like concentration to his script-writing process, working for hours on end, and would later shoot the film on essentially what was his first draft of the script. "The first cut of Ferris Bueller's Day Off ended up at two hours, 45 minutes. The shortening of the script had to come in the cutting room", said Hirsch. "Having the story episodic and taking place in one day...meant the characters were wearing the same clothes. I suspect that Hughes writes his scripts with few, if any costume changes just so he can have that kind of freedom in the editing." Hughes intended the movie to be more focused on the characters rather than the plot. "I know how the movie begins, I know how it ends", said Hughes. "I don't ever know the rest, but that doesn't seem to matter. It's not the events that are important, it's the characters going through the event. Therefore, I make them as full and real as I can. This time around, I wanted to create a character who could handle everyone and everything."
"Chicago is what I am", said Hughes. "A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I'll make sure that's exactly where I film. It's funny—nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller."
For the film, Hughes got the chance to take a more expansive look at the city he grew up in. "We took a helicopter up the Chicago River. This is the first chance I'd really had to get outside while making a movie. Up to this point, the pictures had been pretty small. I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could, not just the architecture and the landscape, but the spirit."
Shooting began in Chicago just after Labor Day weekend, on Monday, September 9, 1985. In late October 1985, the production moved to Los Angeles; shooting ended on Friday, November 22. The Von Steuben Day Parade scene was filmed on Saturday, September 28. The majority of the film was shot in and around New Trier High School's Freshman campus in Northfield, formerly known as New Trier West. Scenes were also filmed at several locations in downtown Chicago and Winnetka (Ferris's home, his mother's real estate office, etc.). Many of the other scenes were filmed in Northbrook, Illinois, including at Glenbrook North High School, on School Drive, the famous long curvy street on which Glenbrook North and neighboring Maple Middle School are situated. Many students at the school served as extras. Most of the school's interior shots were filmed at the shuttered Maine North High School. The exterior of Ferris's house is located at 4160 Country Club Drive, Long Beach, California.
The modernist house of Cameron Frye is located at 370 Beech Street, Highland Park, Illinois 60035, known as Ben Rose House  designed by architects A. James Speyer, who designed the main building in 1954, and David Haid, who designed the pavilion in 1974, and once owned by photographer Ben Rose. Ben Rose had a car collection in the pavilion, as Cameron's father has the Ferrari 250 GT California in the same pavilion in the movie. According to Lake Forest College art professor Franz Shulze, during the filming of the Ferrari-crashing-through-the-garage-window sequence Haid explained to Hughes that he could prevent the car from damaging the rest of the pavilion. Haid fixed connections in the wall and the building remained intact. Haid said to Hughes afterward, "you owe me $25,000", which Hughes paid. Other scenes were shot in Chicago, River Forest, Oak Park, Northbrook, Highland Park, Glencoe and Winnetka, Lake Forest and Long Beach, California.
A passionate Beatles fan, Hughes makes multiple references to them and John Lennon in the script. During filming, Hughes "listened to The White Album every single day for fifty-six days". Hughes also pays tribute to his childhood hero Gordie Howe with Cameron's Detroit Red Wings jersey. "I sent them the jersey", said Howe. "It was nice seeing the No. 9 on the big screen."
In the film, Ferris convinces Cameron to borrow his father's rare 1961 Ferrari GT California. "The insert shots of the Ferrari were of the real 250 GT California", Hughes explains in the DVD commentary. "The cars we used in the wide shots were obviously reproductions. There were only 100 of these cars, so it was way too expensive to destroy. We had a number of replicas made. They were pretty good, but for the tight shots I needed a real one, so we brought one in to the stage and shot the inserts with it."
Automobile restorationist Mark Goyette designed the kits for three reproductions used in the film and chronicled the whereabouts of the cars today: 
The "replicar" was "universally hated by the crew", said Ruck. "It didn't work right." The scene in which Ferris turns off the car to leave it with the garage attendant had to be shot a dozen times because it would not start. At the time of filming, the original 250 GT California model was worth $350,000. Since the release of the film, it has become one of the most expensive cars ever sold, going at auction in 2008 for $10,976,000. The vanity plate of Cameron's dad's Ferrari spells NRVOUS and the other plates seen in the film are homages to Hughes's earlier works, VCTN (National Lampoon's Vacation), TBC (The Breakfast Club), MMOM (Mr. Mom), as well as 4FBDO (Ferris Bueller's Day Off). One of the "replicars" was sold by Bonhams on April 19, 2010 at the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, United Kingdom for £79,600.
Ben Stein's famous monotonic lecture about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was not originally in Hughes's script. Stein, by happenstance, was lecturing off-camera to the amusement of the student cast. "I was just going to do it off camera, but the student extras laughed so hard when they heard my voice that (Hughes) said do it on camera, improvise, something you know a lot about. When I gave the lecture about supply-side economics, I thought they were applauding. Everybody on the set applauded. I thought they were applauding because they had learned something about supply-side economics. But they were applauding because they thought I was boring...It was the best day of my life", Stein said.
Edie McClurg described her character in Ferris Bueller as "a woman who's a secretary in the high school (and) this is in the '80s. So I decided that maybe my hairdo would be '60s, because Grace felt she looked best in the '60s and kept her look from that era. So I went into hair and makeup in the morning and said, 'I'd like a big bubble hairdo.' They had hired a guy who I think was Mia Sara's blowout guy. He didn't know anything about setting hair. So I said, 'I'll just do it myself.' I just teased it up, all the way out, sprayed it, and then gave it a big bubble."
When McClurg arrived on the set with the hairdo, Hughes looked at her and asked, "How many pencils do you think you can fit in that hair?" McClurg responded, "I don't know. Let's see!" "So we put one in. I looked down; nothing came out. I put another one in. I looked down; nothing came out. And the third; nothing came out. Fourth: then it finally dropped. I said, 'I can hold three.' He said, 'O.K., let's start that way.' And that's my intro in the film", McClurg said.
According to Hughes, the scene at the Art Institute of Chicago was "a self-indulgent scene of mine—which was a place of refuge for me, I went there quite a bit, I loved it. I knew all the paintings, the building. This was a chance for me to go back into this building and show the paintings that were my favorite." The museum had not been shot in, until the producers of the film approached them. "I remember Hughes saying, 'There are going to be more works of art in this movie than there have ever been before,'" recalled Jennifer Grey.
Art featured in the sequence includes:
"And then this picture (Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), which I always thought this painting was sort of like making a movie", explained Hughes. "A pointillist style, which at very very close to it, you don't have any idea what you've made until you step back from it. I used it in this context to see that he's (Cameron) looking at that little girl. Again, it's a mother and child. The closer he looks at the child, the less he sees. Of course, with this style of painting. Or any style of painting really. But the more he looks at, there's nothing there. I think he fears that the more you look at him the less you see. There isn't anything there. That's him."
The piece of music I originally chose was a classical guitar solo played on acoustic guitar. It was nonmetrical with a lot of rubato. I cut the sequence to that music and it also became nonmetrical and irregular. I thought it was great and so did Hughes. He loved it so much that he showed it to the studio but they just went "Ehhh." Then after many screenings where the audience said "The museum scene is the scene we like least", he decided to replace the music. We had all loved it, but the audience hated it. I said, 'I think I know why they hate the museum scene. It's in the wrong place.' Originally, the parade sequence came before the museum sequence, but I realized that the parade was the highlight of the day, there was no way we could top it, so it had to be the last thing before the three kids go home. So that was agreed upon, we reshuffled the events of the day, and moved the museum sequence before the parade. Then we screened it and everybody loved the museum scene! My feeling was that they loved it because it came in at the right point in the sequence of events. John felt they loved it because of the music. Basically, the bottom line is, it worked.
In one of the film's most notable scenes, Ferris leaps on a parade float and sings. "I was very scared", Broderick said. "My vocal coach Jonathan Lawrence helped me prepare for the event with hours of physical and mental preparation. This really helped to calm my nerves. Fortunately, the sequence was carefully choreographed beforehand. We worked out all the moves by rehearsing in a little studio. It was shot on two Saturdays in the heart of downtown Chicago. The first day was during a real parade, and John got some very long shots. Then radio stations carried announcements inviting people to take part in 'a John Hughes movie'. The word got around fast and 10,000 people showed up! For the final shot, I turned around and saw a river of people. I put my hands up at the end of the number and heard this huge roar. I can understand how rock stars feel. That kind of reaction feeds you."
Broderick's moves were choreographed by Kenny Ortega (later, of High School Musical fame). Much of it had to be scrapped though as Broderick had injured his knee badly during the scenes of running through neighbor's backyards. "I was pretty sore", Broderick said. "I got well enough to do what you see in the parade there, but I couldn't do most of Kenny Ortega's knee spins and things like that that we had worked on. When we did shoot it, we had all this choreography and I remember John would yell with a megaphone, 'Okay, do it again, but don't do any of the choreography,' because he wanted it to be a total mess." "Danke Schoen" was somewhat choreographed but for "Twist and Shout", Broderick said, "we were just making everything up". Hughes explained that much of the scene was spontaneously filmed. "It just happened that this was an actual parade, which we put our float into,—unbeknownst to anybody, all the people on the reviewing stand. Nobody knew what it was, including the governor."
Wrigley Field is featured in two interwoven and consecutive scenes. In the first scene, Rooney is looking for Ferris at a pizza joint while the voice of Harry Caray announces the action of a ballgame that is being shown on TV. From the play-by-play descriptions, the uniforms, and the player numbers, this game has been identified as the June 5, 1985 game between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. A foul ball is ripped into the left field stands, and as Rooney looks away from the TV briefly, there is a close up of Ferris a moment after catching it. The scene in the pizza joint continues as Rooney tries to banter about the game with the guy behind the counter.
In the next scene, Sloane, Cameron, and Ferris are in the left field stands inside Wrigley. Ferris flexes his hand in pain after supposedly catching the foul ball. During this scene, the characters enjoy the game and joke about what they would be doing if they had played by the rules. All these "in the park" shots, including the one from the previous scene where Ferris catches the foul ball on TV, were filmed on September 24, 1985 at a game between the Montreal Expos and the Cubs. During the 1985 season, the Braves and the Expos both wore powder blue uniforms during their road games. And so, with seamless editing by Hughes, it is difficult to distinguish that the game being seen and described in the pizza joint is not only a different game but also a different Cubs' opponent than the one filmed inside the stadium.
On October 1, 2011, Wrigley Field celebrated the 25th anniversary of the film by showing it on three giant screens on the infield.
Several scenes were cut from the final film; one lost scene entitled 'The Isles of Langerhans' has the three teenagers trying to order in the French restaurant, shocked to discover pancreas on the menu (although in the finished film, Ferris still says, "We ate pancreas", while recapping the day.) This is featured on the Bueller, Bueller Edition DVD. Other scenes were never made available on any DVD version. These scenes included additional screen time with Jeanie in a locker room, Ferris' younger brother and sister (both of whom were completely removed from the film), and additional/alternate lines of dialogue throughout the film, all of which can be seen in the original theatrical trailer. Hughes had also wanted to film a scene where Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron go to a strip club. Paramount executives told him there were only so many shooting days left, so the scene was scrapped.
No official soundtrack was ever released for the film, as director John Hughes felt the songs would not work well together as a continuous album. However, according to an interview with Lollipop Magazine, Hughes noted that he had sent 100,000 7" vinyl singles containing two songs featured in the film to members of his fan mailing list.
Hughes gave further details about his refusal to release a soundtrack in the Lollipop interview:
The only official soundtrack that Ferris Bueller's Day Off ever had was for the mailing list. A&M was very angry with me over that; they begged me to put one out, but I thought "who'd want all of these songs?" I mean, would kids want "Danke Schoen" and "Oh Yeah" on the same record? They probably already had "Twist and Shout", or their parents did, and to put all of those together with the more contemporary stuff, like the (English) Beat—I just didn't think anybody would like it. But I did put together a seven-inch of the two songs I owned the rights to—"Beat City" on one side, and... I forget, one of the other English bands on the soundtrack... and sent that to the mailing list. By '86, '87, it was costing us $30 a piece to mail out 100,000 packages. But it was a labor of love.
Songs featured in the film include:
"Danke Schoen" is one of the recurring leitmotifs in the film and is sung by Ferris, Ed Rooney, and Jeanie. Hughes called it the "most awful song of my youth. Every time it came on, I just wanted to scream, claw my face. I was taking German in high school—which meant that we listened to it in school. I couldn't get away from it." According to Broderick, Ferris's singing "Danke Schoen" in the shower was his idea. "Although it's only because of the brilliance of John's deciding that I should sing "Danke Schoen" on the float in the parade. I had never heard the song before. I was learning it for the parade scene. So we're doing the shower scene and I thought, 'Well, I can do a little rehearsal.' And I did something with my hair to make that Mohawk. And you know what good directors do: they say, 'Stop! Wait till we roll.' And John put that stuff in."
"Twist and Shout" charted again, 16 years after the Beatles broke up, as a result of its prominent appearance in both this film and Back To School (where Rodney Dangerfield performs a cover version) which was released the same weekend as Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The re-released single reached #23 in the U.S; a US-only compilation album containing the track The Early Beatles, re-entered the album charts at #197. The version heard in the film includes brass overdubbed onto the Beatles' original recording, which did not go down well with Paul McCartney. "I liked (the) film but they overdubbed some lousy brass on the stuff! If it had needed brass, we'd had stuck it on ourselves!" Upon hearing McCartney's reaction, Hughes felt really bad for "offend(ing) a Beatle. But it wasn't really part of the song. We saw a band and we needed to hear the instruments."
|"I think when John Hughes wrote, produced and directed Ferris Bueller's Day Off, he was writing about a human need as basic as the human need that Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence: the need to be free, and to pursue happiness. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—very basic stuff. And I don't know that there's ever been a happier movie. It's a movie that you cannot watch without feeling really, really great."|
The film was acclaimed by most critics. It has a "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, having an aggregated critical film review score of 84%. Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars, calling it "one of the most innocent movies in a long time", and "a sweet, warm-hearted comedy". Richard Roeper called Ferris "one of my favorite movies of all time. It has one of the highest 'repeatability' factors of any film I've ever seen...I can watch it again and again. There's also this, and I say it in all sincerity: Ferris Bueller's Day Off is something of a suicide prevention film, or at the very least a story about a young man trying to help his friend gain some measure of self-worth...Ferris has made it his mission to show Cameron that the whole world in front of him is passing him by, and that life can be pretty sweet if you wake up and embrace it. That's the lasting message of Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Roeper's license plate, "SVFRRIS", also pays homage to the film. Conservative columnist George Will hailed Ferris as "the moviest movie", a film "most true to the general spirit of the movies, the spirit of effortless escapism".
Essayist Steve Almond called Ferris "the most sophisticated teen movie (he) had ever seen", adding that while Hughes had made a lot of good movies, Ferris was the "one film (he) would consider true art, (the) only one that reaches toward the ecstatic power of teendom and, at the same time, exposes the true, piercing woe of that age". Almond also applauded Ruck's performance, going so far as saying he deserved the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award of 1986: "His performance is what elevates the film, allows it to assume the power of a modern parable." New York Times reviewer Nina Darnton critiqued Mia Sara's portrayal of Sloane as "played without the specific detail that characterized the adolescent characters in Hughes's other films, and has therefore created a basically stable but forgettable character". Conversely, Darnton praised Ruck and Grey's performances: "The two people who grow in the movie—Cameron, played with humor and sensitivity by Alan Ruck, and Ferris's sister Jeanie, played with appropriate self-pity by Jennifer Grey—are the most authentic. Grey manages to play an insufferably sulky teen-ager who is still attractive and likable."
National Review writer Mark Hemmingway lauded the film's celebration of liberty. "If there's a better celluloid expression of ordinary American freedom than Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I have yet to see it. If you could take one day and do absolutely anything, piling into a convertible with your best girl and your best friend and taking in a baseball game, an art museum, and a fine meal seems about as good as it gets", wrote Hemmingway.
Co-star Ben Stein was exceptionally moved by the film, calling it "the most life-affirming movie possibly of the entire post-war period". "This is to comedies what Gone with the Wind is to epics", Stein added. "It will never die, because it responds to and calls forth such human emotions. It isn't dirty. There's nothing mean-spirited about it. There's nothing sneering or sniggering about it. It's just wholesome. We want to be free. We want to have a good time. We know we're not going to be able to all our lives. We know we're going to have to buckle down and work. We know we're going to have to eventually become family men and women, and have responsibilities and pay our bills. But just give us a couple of good days that we can look back on."
Others were not as enamored with Ferris, many taking issue with the film's "rebel without a cause" hedonism. David Denby of New York Magazine, called the film "a nauseating distillation of the slack, greedy side of Reaganism". Author Christina Lee agreed, adding it was a "splendidly ridiculous exercise in unadulterated indulgence", and the film "encapsulated the Reagan era's near solipsist worldview and insatiable appetite for immediate gratification—of living in and for the moment..." Gene Siskel panned the film from a Chicago-centric perspective saying "Ferris Bueller doesn't do anything much fun... They don't even sit in the bleachers where all the kids like to sit when they go to Cubs games." (Incidentally, Hughes revealed in the DVD commentary that he was not a Cubs fan.) Siskel did enjoy the chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen. Ebert thought Siskel was too eager to find flaws in the film's view of Chicago.
Several notable people have called Ferris Bueller's Day Off their favorite motion picture, including Wolf Blitzer, Dan Quayle, Michael Bublé, Simon Cowell and Justin Timberlake. Ferris was also the first Hughes movie seen by director Jason Reitman, who called it "life-changing". Broderick was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1986 for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
The film opened in 1,330 theaters in the United States and had a total weekend gross of $6,275,647, opening at #2. Ferris Bueller's Day Off's total gross in the United States was approximately $70,136,369, making it a smash hit. It subsequently became the 10th highest grossing film of 1986. Compared to the lean budget of $6 million, it was viewed as a big success.
As an influential and popular film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off has been included in many film rating lists. The film is number 54 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies", came 26th in the British 50 Greatest Comedy Films and ranked number 10 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Best High School Movies". The film was featured in the VH1 television show I Love the 80s, which aired in 2002. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Ferris Bueller's Day Off the 23rd greatest comedy film of all time, and in 2005 an Empire magazine article declared Ferris Bueller's Day Off the number one teen film of all time.
Then First Lady Barbara Bush paraphrased Ferris in her 1990 commencement address at Wellesley College: "Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off, 'Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!'" Responding to the audience's enthusiastic applause, she added "I'm not going to tell George ya clapped more for Ferris than ya clapped for George."
Other phrases from Ferris Bueller's Day Off such as Ben Stein's nasally voiced "Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller?" (when attempting to take roll call in class), and "Anyone? Anyone?" (trying to probe the students for answers) as well as Kristy Swanson's cheerful "No problem whatsoever!" also permeated popular culture. Stein's monotone performance actually launched his acting career.
Broderick said of the Ferris Bueller role, "It eclipsed everything, I should admit, and to some degree it still does." Later at the 2010 Oscar tribute to Hughes, he said, "For the past 25 years, nearly every day someone comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, Ferris, is this your day off?'" Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, who play the parents, met on the set in 1986 and were married a short time after that. The two again played parents in the 1992 horror film Sleepwalkers. A parody of the film titled Fearless Buller's Day Off was published in Mad Magazine. It was illustrated by Mort Drucker and written by Dennis Snee in regular issue #268, January 1987.
Broderick starred in a television advertisement prepared by Honda promoting its CR-V for the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI. The ad pays homage to Ferris Bueller, though places Broderick as himself, faking illness to skip out of work to enjoy sightseeing around Los Angeles. Several elements, such as the use of the song "Oh Yeah", and a valet monotonously calling for "Broderick... Broderick...", appear in the ad. A teaser for the ad had appeared two weeks prior the Super Bowl, which had created rumors of a possible film sequel. It was produced by Santa Monica-based RPA and directed by Todd Phillips. AdWeek's Tim Nudd called the ad "awesome", and "a great homage to the original 1986 film, with Broderick this time calling in sick to a film shoot and enjoying another day of slacking. The spot, by RPA, is pretty wonderful — Broderick amazingly slips back into the role with ease. And fans who've been grousing that the teaser wasn't for an actual sequel to the movie will be pleased to see that Broderick doesn't sully the original film's reputation here." On the other hand, Jalopnik's Matt Hardigree called the spot "sacrilegious".
An excerpt from "Oh Yeah"
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The film's influence in popular culture extends beyond the film itself to how musical elements of the film have been received as well, for example, Yello's 'Oh Yeah' As Jonathan Bernstein explains, "Never a hit, this slice of Swiss-made tomfoolery with its varispeed vocal effects and driving percussion was first used by John Hughes to illustrate the mouthwatering must-haveness of Cameron's dad's Ferrari. Since then, it has become synonymous with avarice. Every time a movie, TV show or commercial wants to underline the jaw-dropping impact of a hot babe or sleek auto, that synth-drum starts popping and that deep voice rumbles, 'Oh yeah . . .'" Concerning the influence of another song used in the film, Roz Kaveney writes that some "of the finest moments in later teen film draw on Ferris's blithe Dionysian fervour — the elaborate courtship by song in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) draws usefully on the 'Twist and Shout' sequence in Ferris Bueller's Day Off". The bands Save Ferris and Rooney were named in allusion to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Broderick and Hughes stayed in touch for a while after production. "We thought about a sequel to Ferris Bueller, where he'd be in college or at his first job, and the same kind of things would happen again. But neither of us found a very exciting hook to that. The movie is about a singular time in your life." "Ferris Bueller is about the week before you leave school, it's about the end of school—in some way, it doesn't have a sequel. It's a little moment and it's a lightning flash in your life. I mean, you could try to repeat it in college or something but it's a time that you don't keep. So that's partly why I think we couldn't think of another", Broderick added. "But just for fun", said Ruck, "I used to think why don't they wait until Matthew and I are in our seventies and do Ferris Bueller Returns and have Cameron be in a nursing home. He doesn't really need to be there, but he just decided his life is over, so he committed himself to a nursing home. And Ferris comes and breaks him out. And they go to, like, a titty bar and all this ridiculous stuff happens. And then, at the end of the movie, Cameron dies."
Scholars have identified different aspects of how the film depicts or does not depict teachers and the role of these depictions in popular culture. For Martin Morse Wooster, the film "portrayed teachers as humorless buffoons whose only function was to prevent teenagers from having a good time". Tara Brabazon writes that the "impact of...Ferris Bueller's Day Off serves to render invisible the female teacher from popular culture".
Regarding not specifically teachers, but rather a type of adult characterization in general, Art Silverblatt asserts that the "adults in Ferris Bueller's Day Off are irrelevant and impotent. Ferris's nemesis, the school disciplinarian, Mr. Rooney, is obsessed with 'getting Bueller.' His obsession emerges from envy. Strangely, Ferris serves as Rooney's role model, as he clearly possesses the imagination and power that Rooney lacks. ... By capturing and disempowering Ferris, Rooney hopes to ... reduce Ferris's influence over other students, which would reestablish adults, that is, Rooney, as traditional authority figures." Nevertheless, Silverblatt concludes that "Rooney is essentially a comedic figure, whose bumbling attempts to discipline Ferris are a primary source of humor in the film". Thomas Patrick Doherty writes that "the adult villains in teenpics such as ... Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) are overdrawn caricatures, no real threat; they're played for laughs". Yet Silverblatt also remarks that casting "the principal as a comic figure questions the competence of adults to provide young people with effective direction—indeed, the value of adulthood itself".
Of course, adults are not the stars or main characters of the film, and Roz Kaveney notes that what "Ferris Bueller brings to the teen genre, ultimately, is a sense of how it is possible to be cool and popular without being rich or a sports hero. Unlike the heroes of Weird Science, Ferris is computer savvy without being a nerd or a geek — it is a skill he has taken the trouble to learn."
The film was first released on VHS in 1987, and then re-released on VHS in 1996. The film has been released on DVD three times; including the original DVD release in 1999, the "Bueller... Bueller" edition in 2006, and the "I Love the '80s" edition in 2008. The original DVD, like most Paramount Pictures films released on DVD for the first time, has very few bonus features, but it does feature a commentary by Hughes. The "Bueller... Bueller" re-release has several more bonus features, but does not contain the commentary track of the original DVD release. The "I Love the '80s" edition is identical to the first DVD release (no features aside from commentary), but includes a bonus CD with songs from the 1980s. The songs are not featured in the film. The "Bueller... Bueller" edition has multiple bonus features such as interviews with the cast and crew, along with a clip of Ben Stein's commentaries on the film's philosophy and impact. The Blu-ray Disc release (which is a part of the "Bueller... Bueller" edition, with the same bonus material) was first released on May 5, 2009. A 25th anniversary edition for DVD and Blu-ray were both released on August 2, 2011.
In 1990, a series called Ferris Bueller started for NBC, starring Charlie Schlatter as Ferris Bueller, Jennifer Aniston as Jeanie Bueller and Ami Dolenz as Sloane Peterson. The series served as a prequel to the film. In the pilot episode, the audience sees Schlatter cutting up a cardboard cutout of Matthew Broderick, saying that he hated Broderick's performance as him. It was produced by Maysh, Ltd. Productions in association with Paramount Television. In part because of competition of the similar series on the Fox Television Network, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, the series was canceled after the first thirteen episodes aired. Both Schlatter and Aniston later had success on other TV shows, Schlatter on Diagnosis: Murder and Aniston on Friends.
In 2011 the documentary Inside Story: Ferris Bueller's Day Off was released as a tribute to the film.
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