Revisiting: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It sure does. Today marks 30 years since Ferris Bueller first took his day off, and if anything from John Hughes’s rambunctious comedy still holds true, it’s that. The world is moving at jet’s pace and we’re always so busy doing things that before we know it, another year’s gone by and we’re left wondering what we’ve actually accomplished. Sometimes we just need to stop. Think. Take stock of the important things. Even if that’s nothing more than getting lost in one of our favourite movies.

With the exception of the horror and action movies for which the decade is so fondly remembered, 80s movies tend to harbour a real sense of unhinged fun and freedom. From Footloose to The Breakfast Clubthey’re all about young people breaking off their stubborn societal shackles and doing what they want to do, regardless of what others think. The very premise of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sings in harmony with that. Ferris chooses not to conform to the banality of the classroom day after day and instead, through a series of wonderfully perfected ‘playing hooky’ tricks, takes the opportunity to earn lifelong memories with his friends.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 30th anniversary, 80s movies, feel-good, Matthew Broderick, John Huges, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Save Ferris

Much of the delight of the movie comes from to Matthew Broderick’s brilliant, fourth wall-breaking performance as the eponymous AWOL teenager (the funny sting in the credits of Deadpool was lifted directly from here). Broderick has rarely been more engaging or entertaining as he throws wisdom and one-liners directly at the audience with some surprisingly enlightening connotations; though arguably the best scene in the film sees him jump atop a parade float and joyously lip-sink The Beatles’ ‘Twist & Shout’ to a bustling Chicago. It’s the kind of exhilarating moment in life I imagine we all aspire to from time to time.

But the real genius of the movie is the gradual subjugation of his friend Cameron’s (Alan Ruck) more conformed personality. For much of the film, Cameron acts as the ‘grown-up’ of the trio, admonishing Ferris from pulling whatever stunt is next because they’ll get in trouble. At first unwilling to even join Ferris on his day off, then even more unwilling to let them drive his dad’s cherished 1961 Ferrari 250 GT, Cameron gradually realises that what Ferris is doing is more than just skipping school and getting his friends into trouble for a bit of fun – he’s showing them what life can (and really should) be about. While Cameron ultimately learns the hard way, it’s a moment which will go on to shape his life for the better, and to me, that’s so endearing.

Comedies are seldom so meaningful and honest – especially not 30 years down – but that’s exactly why we’re still talking about it today. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off wraps its intelligent core with an effortless blend of sophisticated humour and silly slapstick. It’s fun and joyous and completely off the hook at times, but never too batty to forget how meaningful it actually is to cinema. Here’s to another joyful 30 years of breaking the rules.

Also, save Ferris.

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