Blu-ray Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

The 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was first released in high definition on May 5, 2009. The 25th Anniversary Edition, set to be released by Paramount Pictures on August 3, 2011, features the same transfer, audio, and special features. The only difference is the commemorative packaging.

Ferris BuellerLet’s face it, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t exactly highbrow cinema but it sure is fun. The 1986 comedy made Matthew Broderick a star, cemented director John Hughes’ (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink) status as the best chronicler of teenage life in a America and made Ferris the envy of every high school student. As a student getting ready to enter the ninth grade at the time, I saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the theater three times and wished I could embrace life as easily as he could; fake being sick without fear of being caught. For about a year after the film came out, rarely a day went by when someone didn’t repeat that famous roll call, “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.”

Matthew Broderick proved to be the perfect choice to play Ferris–the coolest kid in school, a righteous dude beloved by all students, no matter their click or affiliation. With the character turning around and giving self-righteous, smart-ass monologues to the camera at regular intervals throughout the film, it really ought not to work as well as it does. On the surface, Ferris Bueller should be that annoying kid nobody likes. His own sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) simmers because he can get away with everything, while she gets caught. However, Broderick has an undeniable charm that allows him to pull it off; he makes Ferris so likable, even the audience has to cheer his slightly anarchic stance.

The story itself is a rather simple one. In the spring of his senior year, Ferris decides he needs a break and must cut school for the day. However, he needs accomplices, so he talks his cheerleader girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara) and his hypochondriac best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck). Deciding they can’t take Cameron’s piece of junk car on their adventure, Ferris commandeers Cameron’s father’s pride and joy, a bright red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider and the gang heads for Chicago.

Leaving thoughts of school or Ferris’ supposed illness behind, they set out on quite an adventure; Ferris and friends visit the world’s tallest building; stop in on the Stock Exchange; eat lunch at a snobby restaurant; attend a Chicago Cubs game; go to an art museum; and sing and dance in a street parade, which features the movie’s showstopping production numbers, Ferris lip-synching to Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” and the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has a great supporting cast. One of the most memorable characters has to be Mr. Rooney, the school’s principal played by Jeffrey Jones, who, like Ferris’ sister, suspects Ferris is getting away with something and is determined to catch him in the act, pursuing Ferris all over town, always one step behind. At one point, Rooney is on the hunt for Ferris in downtown Chicago, only to miss him being shown on live television catching a ball in the stands at a Cubs game. The downtown hunt is even fumier because it shows just how much Rooney underestimates Ferris–expecting to find him in the arcade of a cheap diner, while Ferris is actually dining at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city and making much more imaginative and risky appearances in public in front of TV cameras.

Written by John Hughes almost entirely in the space of a week, the sheer ease with which Ferris Bueller’s Day Off appears to carry off its humor, belies the brilliance of its structure and writing. You could pick nearly any scene of the film at random and by watching how it juxtaposes its outrageously funny scenes, analyze why it works so well. For example, take the early scene where Ed Rooney is going apoplectic in his office at the thought that Bueller has pulled the wool over his parents’ eyes and got another sick day but is denied any small pleasure that might be derived from an appalling sick record, as Ferris hacks into his school record from his home computer and removes the evidence before his very eyes. That’s just great stuff.

Until recently, I believed the film was Ferris’ story and Sloane and Cameron were just along for the ride. As a matter of fact, I thought the film dipped a bit near the end, when Cameron flips out and trashes his father’s Ferrari. What I’ve come to realize is that the film is really Cameron’s story. After all, Ferris is the kid everyone loves; Cameron is the friend who’s always being pushed around, he feels better when he’s sick because it’s the only time he can indulge his self pity. The character arc in the film is his–he, after all, learns something from the duo’s “day off,” and makes at least one life-changing discovery.

Arguably John Hughes best film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains a comedy classic that will likely be as funny twenty years from now, as it was twenty years ago. It’s a film that shows that some of life’s best lessons are learned outside the classroom. Featuring some great acting and numerous memorable lines and situations, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off resides among the best the Comedy genre has to offer.

erris Bueller’s Day Off comes to Blu-ray with a nice-looking 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The movie shows its age but is generally nice to look at, neither excelling nor faltering in any one spot. There are speckles and spots galore to be seen on the print throughout the movie, not to mention a few scratches, though they are never too terribly intrusive. A bit of grain is also present. Colors are strong and vibrant throughout. The red Ferarri sparkles, the car never looking better here than it does on any other home video version. The interior is visibly plush, too, almost enough to imagine the sensation of sinking into its brown leather seats. Detail is sufficient across the board. The porous Detroit Red Wings Gordie Howe Jersey Cameron wears and the odds and ends scattered about Ferris’ bedroom, for example, provide plenty of texture and visible information. Facial detail looks a bit flat and smooth, acceptable. Flesh tones sometimes look a bit dull. Overall, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t reference quality; however, the film looks better than ever on this release.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has an effective Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. It offers far more clarity, definition, small details, and a sense of space that seemed lacking on previous home video editions of the film. The influx of popular music heard throughout the film, beginning almost immediately once Ferris is left alone at home and through to the end of the movie (including the famous “Twist and Shout” sequence), plays with a clarity and presence that brings the film to new sonic life. All songs feature crisp highs, a solid midrange, and positive, sufficient lows. The subwoofer never rumbles but it doesn’t have to in the context of the movie. The low end is presented with just the right amount of heft to support the track rather. The track also reveals subtle sound effects that may have been lost in the shuffle on previous releases — cars moving down the street in the far background, the sounds of baseball at Wrigley Field and ambient crowd noise during the “Twist and Shout” parade scene — engulf the listener. Dialogue is delivered clearly and at an adequate volume. It’s a very good overall experience and Paramount has done a fine job in bringing this soundtrack to Blu-ray.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to Blu-ray with a few special features:

Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (480p, 27:45) – A retrospective documentary that offers some insights about the casting of each of the film’s roles, from Broderick, Alan Ruck and Mia Sara to supporting and cameo performers like Kristy Swanson, Ben Stein and Charlie Sheen.
The Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (480p, 15:29) – Offers some interesting insights on the making of the film and includes interviews with the film’s producers and Ben Stein, among others.
Who is Ferris Bueller? (480p, 9:12) – This featurette looks at the qualities that define the film’s title character, told through interview clips and film footage.
The World According to Ben Stein (480p, 10:51) – A short featurette in which Stein offers his recollections about the experience of playing one of cinema’s most memorable teachers, saying that he actually wants “Bueller… Bueller…” engraved on his tombstone when he passes away.
Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (480p, 10:16) features actors Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, and Jeffrey Jones discussing odds and ends about their experiences in making the film.
Class Album – An image gallery from the production.