Rewatch: ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’


Today I’m in Somerset.

There’s a crisp blue sky. I’m not starting the thriller for a week. I’m going for lunch with friends. What could make the day more perfect? How about a song?

I rewatched ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ last night and it’s changed. Here’s how.

1. It’s very slow and a bit hammy. The takes are long but allow for actual acting, which is when actors get to emote without the camera cutting away every three seconds.

2. The great Jeffrey Jones is still the master of the slow burn. His incredibly drawn-out downfall at the very end is kicked into touch with the little girl’s line, ‘I bet you never smelled a real school bus before.’

3. Matthew Broderick is smarmy and a bit annoying now but is still great, and breaks the fourth wall a lot. But why on earth is the film rated 18?

4. Bueller’s girlfriend stares at him silently a lot because she doesn’t have much dialogue. So when she does, she makes it count.

5. Cameron’s stand strikes a serious note and still puts a lump in the throat. Oh, and that car…

6. It’s very theatrical. The arrangement of shots in the museum, the speeches to camera, the background action that belies what’s happening in the foreground. Those slow zooms and reaction shots aren’t how we do things now, and that’s a shame.

7. Eighties fashions! That wallpaper in the Bueller house! Mum’s shoulderpads! Charlie Sheen!

8.It’s a teensy bit racist. Twice a character says with exasperation ‘Do you speak English?’ to an employee. It was the eighties.

9. The dialogue is still priceless and quotable. ‘No little snot-nosed punk is going to leave my cheese out in the wind.’

10. And this. Which I’d forgotten comes after a rendering of ‘Dunkeschoen’…

18 comments on “Rewatch: ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’”

  1. Jo W says:

    Who got you to pose with that pitchfork,Christopher? Did you get the pattern for that smock from one of your or Arthur’s collection of books? 😉

  2. admin says:

    You jest. I do have a book of Somerset smock patterns, given to me by a fan.

  3. Denise Treadwell says:

    I can actually smock I made clothes for my daughter, don’t mock the smocker!

  4. Brooke says:

    It was the eighties? We lacked manners in the eighties?

  5. Richard Burton says:

    Going to get my 12 year old watch this soon (it’s just not worthy of an 18 as far as I remember). The core message of the film seems to be a good one for kids I think. You’re right though, the girlfriend gets a bum deal in the script, but the towering fury of the sister role must have been great to play.

  6. Wayne Mook says:

    In the age of greed is good, it did feel like there were no manners, Brooke. The Ronny Thatcher era of keeping people down anyway possible and the rich doing what they wanted, manners seemed a neglected art, I guess it was one of the catalysts for the PC of now. Don’t get me started on the South Yorkshire Police.


  7. Ian Luck says:

    Chris – I think that it is rated 18 solely because of Principal Rooney’s use of the word “Fucker” when he knocks out Ferris’ dog. It might be, too, that it glamorises playing truant, disrespecting your elders, and possibly, property destruction. I’ve watched this many times, and it still amuses me, in a way that so many more modern comedies don’t (although my brother’s partner dreads it if my brother and me are in the car with her at a drive through, if she’s ordering, as she knows that one of us will come out with the phrase: “…And then?” which comes from ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’ a dumb but lovable movie.). ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ is one of those endlessly quotable movies, too. Principal Rooney’s intrigued quote when Ferris’ girlfriend is picked up by her supposed father (Ferris, in disguise), who gives her a lavish kiss: “Hmm. So THAT’S how it is in her family…” , is somewhat uncomfortable, knowing that Jeffery Jones would be arrested on child sex charges several years later. There are a few things that annoy me, though, through being totally unrealistic. The keyboard he has in his room, that he uses solely to make coughing noises, for instance. No parent would ever buy their child one. It’s an E-Mu ‘Emulator II’ sampling keyboard – one of the first, and used by bands like Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire (Ferris has a poster for their album Micro-Phonies’ on his wall). The problem lies in the cost of this Instrument – when it first came out, it cost around £15,500. A bloke I knew when I lived in Ripon bought a fairly knackered one in 1987, and it still set him back £8,000. Still, I like Ferris. He’s a righteous dude.

  8. Mary Young says:

    I live in Somerset. All that you imagine is true. Loved the clip.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    I have never seen Ferris Bueller. After that Twist and Shout piece I’ll have to if only to see that again. I was an uptight teacher in the 80s and the only thing anyone ever said about the movie was that it was a badass kid sneaking away from school to create havoc. Not being overly fond of either of those I never bothered.

  10. Ian Luck says:

    The only other comedy film I really love from that era is ‘Better Off Dead’, starring John Cusack. It’s daft, dark, and very funny. The hero’s mum is always making dreadful food from recipes in magazines. She makes something with jello that actually creeps off on it’s own across the table. At one point Cusack’s character jumps off a bridge over the highway, but lands in the back of a truck full of garbage, which is seen by two Afro-American guys cutting shrubbery back, and causes the following: “Now that’s a damn shame, when folks be throwing away a perfectly good white boy like that.” Add to the mix a terrifying paperboy who wants his two dollars, and the much parodied Japanese guys, who treat every road junction as the opportunity for a drag race, with one of them commentating through a tannoy on their car, as they learned English through watching sports commentators. It’s the 1980’s. Enjoy it.

  11. Chris Lancaster says:

    Save Ferris!

  12. SimonB says:

    It’s a film I absolutely loved at the time, and really want to re-watch but have been scared to due to others not living up to my memories. Likewise Gremlins which we have had on dvd for at least ten years but never dared unwrap.

  13. Bruce Rockwood says:

    It was the first film we saw where he comes out after the credits to say What Are You Doing Still here? Our kids loved it and we still do. And with trump reinstating Tariffs the Smoot-Hawley reference is timely now.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    Smoot-Hawley reference? This is a much higher class effort than I thought. Checking the library (Ferris Bueller and The Prince – now that should be a great combo.)

  15. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – in the movie, this is part of the lesson given by a monotonously droning history teacher, who endlessly repeats words, even when taking the class register: “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” etc. I always got the impression that the guy had had enough of teaching, and was just ‘phoning it in’.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    Well, the library has an available copy so I’ll risk the boring history teacher. They also have a book titled “Life Moves Pretty Fast: the lessons we learned from Eighties Movies and Why we don’t Learn them there Any More” by Hadley Freeman. I may pick that up at the same time to see what I’m not learning.

  17. Ian Luck says:

    There’s another character with a boring voice in 1987’s ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’, a radio dj called ‘Dan ‘The Man’ Levitan’, who drones on monotonously about razorblades and being able to use Hanoi Library. Things I’m sure that the average G.I. would have been thrilled about.

  18. Helen Martin says:

    I remember that character. Made a great contrast to the “Good morning, Vietnam!” opening.

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