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Ferris Bueller's Day Off: 25th Anniversary Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray Review

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) movie poster Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Theatrical Release: June 13, 1986 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Writer/Director: John Hughes

Cast: Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller), Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye), Mia Sara (Sloane Peterson), Jeffrey Jones (Edward R. Rooney), Jennifer Grey (Jeanie Bueller), Cindy Pickett (Katie Bueller), Lyman Ward (Tom Bueller), Edie McClurg (Grace the School Secretary), Charlie Sheen (Boy in Police Station), Ben Stein (Economics Teacher), Del Close (English Teacher), Virginia Capers (Florence Sparrow), Richard Edson (Garage Attendant), Larry Flash Jenkins (Attendant's Co-Pilot), Kristy Swanson (Simone Adamley), Jonathan Schmock (Chez Quis Maitre D')

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The late, great John Hughes will forever be associated with the high school comedy, even if his work in the genre was just a phase of a few years in a career that spanned over twenty.
Hughes no doubt made more money writing and producing hit family films in the 1990s, something he began with the behemothic Home Alone. While that comedy grows more beloved every Christmas, a lot of Hughes' later work (two Home Alone sequels, Baby's Day Out, Flubber, the 1994 Miracle on 34th Street, and the 1996 101 Dalmatians) isn't as fondly recalled, no matter how much box office business it did.

The years that Hughes spent writing about and for teens are far more celebrated by the public, for they gave us such iconic movies as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Hughes wrote and directed all three of those, and along with Home Alone, the Thanksgiving buddy comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and the two best Vacation movies, they represent the tallest achievements in a spectacular and too short career.

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) details the three important steps to faking out parents for a liberating sick day.

To me and many, Ferris is the ultimate teen comedy. In his mid-30s during his high school movie phase, Hughes managed to supply a winning blend of humor, heart, intelligence, and imagination that has eluded the vast majority of comedy filmmakers. Hughes let Howard Deutch direct two of his last high school screenplays (Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful), making Ferris his final teen comedy in the director's chair. Why shouldn't it have been? To continue to have toiled in the genre after Ferris Bueller's Day Off would have been to accept an unmistakable descent. This 1986 film is magical, a crowning and epic culmination to Hughes' exploration of the hallways, lockers, and libraries of suburban Illinois high schools.

As the title suggests, Ferris offers an escape from school and a grand one at that. It's spring and Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) doesn't feel like going to school today. He has little trouble faking out his parents (Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward) with licked clammy hands and a committed performance. His younger sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing) is less convinced, and this latest incident of Ferris getting his way adds fuel to her raging fire of jealous sibling discontent. Also not buying the sick story is dean of students Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), whose alarm is triggered by the senior's ninth absence this semester. Determined to catch Ferris playing hooky and deflate the hero status he enjoys, Rooney sets off on a one-man investigation that does not go well.

Ferris, meanwhile, teams up with his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck, "Spin City"), the tightly-wound product of a domineering father and an unhappy marriage, and Ferris' girlfriend, junior Sloane Peterson (Legend's Mia Sara), who he has excused from school with a well-conceived plan. Borrowing Cameron's father's prized and barely driven 1961 Ferrari 250 GT convertible, the three of them hit downtown Chicago for a day they'll never forget.

Mr. and Mrs. Bueller (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett) do not doubt that their Ferris is a very sick boy. Dean of students Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) goes to great lengths to try to bust Ferris for skipping school.

Ferris is brilliantly plotted and cleverly directed by Hughes. His charming hero thinks of everything, staying one step ahead of every curveball the day throws him. He has anticipated bedroom checks and even house calls with ingeniously designed scams. And he thinks on his feet, ensuring that no situation, no matter how risky, can unfold against his wishes. So long as Ferris has your sympathy -- and how can he not, for he speaks for and acts upon sentiments inside all of us -- there is almost no way you won't enjoy tagging along with him, Cameron, and Sloane on their fantastic skipped school day.

More than any other, this film demonstrates the genius of John Hughes. That a single person could come up with this story and these characters, write it all out remarkably in just six days, and see it to fruition so satisfyingly only a few months later is astonishing, particularly when context establishes it not as some freak capture of lightning in a bottle, but as one of a number of great films that continue to delight all these years later. Just three months after wrapping on Ferris, Hughes began shooting Planes, Trains & Automobiles, another outstanding, enduring comedy, that one starring adults (including recurring star John Candy, whose young death would reportedly drive Hughes out of Hollywood).

Sloane (Mia Sara), Cameron (Alan Ruck), and Ferris (Matthew Broderick) drive into downtown Chicago for a day off they'll never forget.

Ferris is really everything you want a movie to be. It's full of wit, strong characters, big ideas, adventure, conflict, and, above all else, fun. Though starring teens (albeit ones played by actors as old as 29) and casting a middle-aged stiff as a villain, this is a film that speaks to all ages and its message is one few could deride. Whereas other comedies score laughs out of getting drunk and laid, this one sets its sights higher. Ferris and company's pleasurable pursuits are edifying experiences: lunch at an upscale restaurant, a German-American parade (shot on Von Steuben Day), a game at Wrigley Field, a look at the priceless works of the Art Institute of Chicago.
If you're going to miss an ordinary six hours of high school for non-health reasons, what could be more excusable than this robust serving of culture? And it's no trivial fact that Ferris is just weeks away from graduation, soon to be separated from both Cameron and Sloane. These three are on the verge of adulthood and we can only hope they don't lose the spark of life and hunger for adventure that fuel the spontaneous recreation.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off was a hit with audiences in theaters, Hughes' all-time biggest as director. And yet the $70 million domestic earnings don't even begin to capture the film's popularity and familiarity. Of the nine 1986 films that grossed more, only Aliens, Top Gun, and maybe Platoon approach the same level of devotion and appreciation this claims. The years have been kind to Ferris; like the films of Frank Capra, those of Hughes seem unusually able to withstand the test of time, their comedy the universal and human kind that isn't anchored to a specific period and destined to grow more unfashionable with each passing day. This film entertains from start to finish (the latter even running through and past the end credits) with hardly a single scene that won't strike you enough to be able to quote it by your second or third viewing. It's appropriate that there are references within to James Bond, The Beatles, and Star Wars (the latter two complete with rarely licensed music) because Ferris Bueller is right up there with them in the pantheon of cultural landmarks.

At the Shermer Police Station, Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) makes the acquaintance of a tired-looking young man (Charlie Sheen).

I could go on and on about Ferris, lamenting that this kind of movie expectedly received no award recognition (beyond a Golden Globe nomination for Broderick, which he lost to Paul Hogan), expressing shock that the American Film Institute would leave it off their not terribly agreeable 100 Years...100 Laughs countdown, mentioning the memorable early appearances made by Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson, and the short-lived 1990 NBC sitcom (which starred Jennifer Aniston as Jeanie). And I guess I just did all that. But aware that I've already given you plenty to think about, I'll just touch on one final thing before wrapping up and that is the film's music.

Hughes had a knack for picking songs that went well with scenes, and Ferris displays that talent at length with its array of fitting primarily British pop/rock tunes that give the film personality. I know very little about the bands featured here, like Yello, The Flowerpot Men, and The Dream Academy, but their songs greatly enhance the scenes they accompany. (The full list, as usual, is at the bottom of this review.) How Hughes could think there was no demand to release an official soundtrack (beyond the two-track album he sent out to his fan club members) is one of life's great mysteries.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off turns 25 this year and any movie so beloved deserves to have such a milestone recognized. Paramount Home Entertainment has done that without expending too much effort. It has repackaged the film's existing Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray (released in 2009) and DVD (released in 2006) with a new slipcover that opens to map out the locations of Ferris and friends' various exploits.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Bueller... Bueller... Edition Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 2, 2011 (Disc first released May 5, 2009)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Blue Keepcase in Book-Like Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($12.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as DVD and "I love the 80's" DVD with CD

VIDEO and AUDIO

Ferris Bueller's Day Off looks pretty exquisite on Blu-ray. This was clearly shot on higher quality film stock than most high school comedies and that results in the 2.35:1 picture boasting an extraordinary amount of detail. It helps too that as one of the studio's top-selling titles, Paramount has treated the film to a top-notch restoration. The element remains stunningly clean, void of almost any film or digital artifacts. The closest thing to problems you can spot are minor: some static shots seem to ever so slightly jostle (probably a filming issue), grain weighs down on a few shots, and the pale-skinned cast make colors seem a tad bit pale. Otherwise, the presentation is perfect and especially excellent considering the film's age. The Blu-ray provides a pronounced improvement over the 1999 DVD, if that is all that you've got.

As far as audio is concerned, we get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. It's less of a revelation than the picture, but equally unhindered by any problems, while displaying few signs of age. As stated above, the largely obscure sampled music is terrific and it breathes the most life into the mix, from the unmistakable sound of John Williams' Star Wars theme to The Flowerpot Men's aptly-used "Beat City." Dialogue remains clear and crisp, whether recorded in controlled atmospheres or not. It is something of a miracle that Ferris holds up as well as it does technically, and that is apparent on this Blu-ray.

Post-nose job Jennifer Grey is one of eleven cast members reflecting on the movie in "Getting the Class Together." The most recent bonus feature input from writer/director John Hughes are his mulleted 1980s interview clips.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

To reiterate, the Blu-ray Disc itself is unchanged from its 2009 debut. That means it contains the same six extras as the Bueller... Bueller... Edition DVD from 2006. It also means that it again excludes the one bonus feature from the original 1999 Ferris Bueller's Day Off DVD, an audio commentary by John Hughes himself. By 1999, Hughes had retired from the business, moved back to Chicago, and become a bit of a recluse. Ferris' was the only commentary he ever recorded and the track now stands as his final public thoughts on his work. Rumors indicate that, for whatever reason (perhaps to better reflect the anonymity he apparently craved and found), Hughes requested Paramount remove it from the film's souped-up 2006 DVD, which might be the only way to explain how a supplement so significant could go missing on a release that otherwise sought to expand retrospection.
Now that Hughes has passed away much too soon, there is some responsibility for Paramount to restore the revealing commentary on the movie's inevitable next edition. Until then, its absence is glaring and unfortunate (and I'm holding onto my old DVD).

Extras that are here (all in standard definition and 1.33:1, unless noted) begin with "Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (27:45). This documentary focuses on the actors assembled, collecting new thoughts from Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jennifer Grey, Lyman Ward, Cindy Pickett, Jeffrey Jones, Edie McClurg, Ben Stein, Richard Edson, Kristy Swanson, Jonathan Schmock, and casting directors Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson. Complementing that most impressive roster are production interviews with Hughes and Mia Sara. Everyone's got a story and all of them are interesting, especially Broderick and Ruck's Broadway history and Bueller parents Ward and Pickett's courtship.

"The Making of Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (15:29) shares some production footage and more 21st century recollections, adding producer Tom Jacobson to the already extensive list of interview subjects. Worthwhile stories flow, these pertaining to the filming of sequences and the general set atmosphere.

"Who is Ferris Bueller?" (9:12) collects cast members' answers to that question from the '80s and modern times. Along with that, we get miscellaneous memories and anecdotes, plus some remarks on Broderick.

Ben Stein rattles off a list of the life achievements he believes will pale next to his economics teacher whose roll call supplies this Blu-ray with its moniker. Matthew Broderick interviews Alan Ruck in "Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes."

"The World According to Ben Stein" (10:50) gathers comments from the monotone-voiced commentator, humorist, and actor in 1986 and 2005, the former discussing his experience on the film and the latter discussing its legacy. Stein speaks so very highly of it, comparing Hughes to Thomas Jefferson and Bueller to Jesus Christ in addition to sharing stories of ordinary and famous people (Kurt Cobain, President Bush) quoting his signature roll call line to him. It's an unforgettable piece.

"Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes" (10:16) might sound like deleted scenes, and it does supply B-roll from a brief cut restaurant scene of ordering pancreas. Around it, we get on-set 1980s cast interviews, conducted by Matthew Broderick of Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, and Jeffrey Jones. They're goofy and fun, even as real character and production information emerges.

Publicity photos of the young leads like this one comprise the Class Album gallery. The Blu-ray's menu offers many layers of themed diversion.

Finally, the HD "Class Album" lets you navigate through 18 publicity photos of the lead cast members, clearly and largely displayed against the menu's corkboard.

It remains unclear why the movie's trailer has never been made available on DVD or Blu-ray, since Paramount is usually good about including those on older films.

The lively, commendable menu models itself after Ferris' room, with video clips, gadgets, and various mementos inspired by the day off. Listings ascend, sometimes with little drawings next to them.

Now, we come to the packaging, which is often the least remarkable part of a review, but here covers the one aspect exclusive to this release. Most slipcovers simply repeat the case artwork below, only on cardboard. This new edition of Ferris does that, adding a sticker ("Celebrating 25 years of sick days") and some texture (to the title and Ferris' sunglasses). But the velcro-attached face of it also opens up like a book, to display a colorful map of the Chicago area, with pictures of various parts of the movies tied to their real geographic locations (Wrigley Field, Art Institute of Chicago, etc.). It's a neat and fitting touch and the perfect launchpad for the John Hughes movie location tour you've been meaning to take. A regular Blu-ray case holds the colorless disc with an insert offering standard hardware and firmware disclaimers.

Ferris Bueller surprises his friends by leading a German-American parade float in a rousing lip-synching of Wayne Newton's "Danke Shoen."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is on my short list of all-time favorite movies and I'd be just as comfortable including it replacing "favorite" with "greatest." This is John Hughes at his very best and it stands up well in comparison to any other movie from the 1980s or really any era at all. If you haven't yet seen this movie, you must do so as soon as possible.

Paramount's repackaged Blu-ray is not really an upgrade, but it does offer a little new incentive to buy the movie if you haven't already and it's an easy way for the studio to commemorate this landmark film's silver anniversary. I suspect the film will be revisited again before long, hopefully with Hughes' audio commentary restored and probably with a tribute to the gone but not forgotten filmmaker (the segment on the 2010 Academy Awards is ripe for licensing). But there is no reason to deprive yourself and wait for a better edition: this Bueller... Bueller... disc does just fine in terms of feature presentation and its excellent collection of bonus features. A near-perfect release of an outstanding film, this comes highly recommended on whichever format you prefer.

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off Songs List (in order of use): JAM Creative Productions - "WLS Jingle", Sigue Sigue Sputnick - "Love Missile F1-11", Hugo Montenegro - "Jeannie (Theme from "I Dream of Jeannie")", Yello - "Oh Yeah", The Flowerpot Men (Ben Watkins & Adam Peters) - "Beat City", Big Audio Dynamite - "Bad", John Williams - "Star Wars (Main Title)", The Dream Academy - "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want", Wayne Newton - "Danke Shoen", The Beatles - "Twist and Shout", General Public - "Taking the Day Off", Zapp - "Radio People", Blue Room - "I'm Afraid", The Dream Academy - "The Edge of Forever", The (English) Beat - "March of the Swivelheads"

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Reviewed August 2, 2011.



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