Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Hyperactive, flippant teen comedy by John Hughes about a high school senior who plays sick in order to spend the day carousing around the city with his girlfriend and his best buddy. The script is funny enough, and Matthew Broderick is sufficiently likable as the title character -- ably supported by Jeffrey Jones as the slimy school principal, Edie McClurg as his secretary, and Ben Stein in a brief but memorable turn as the monotonous economics teacher. Broderick and friends spending their day doing "grown up" things like eating at a fancy restaurant or going to an art museum brings to mind Macaulay Culkin taking on adult responsibilities in Hughes' later HOME ALONE, and the idea makes for some of the most effective scenes in the film for the comical contrast they present

Hughes' "deep" moments of teenage introspection feel forced here, coming across as pretentious and bringing the comedy to a halt, though they do give some heart to the humor. In any case, there are far fewer of those moments here than in his earlier teen comedies. In this way, the film is less dated than SIXTEEN CANDLES or THE BREAKFAST CLUB because it's not as closely linked to a particular moment, with its broad, sometimes cartoonish humor being more timeless in its appeal. But it's also less interesting and less personal overall as a result. Unlike the two previously-mentioned Hughes films, which treated the soul-searching and angst of those awkward years deadly serious and have a certain charm as a result, FERRIS BUELLER is pure comic fantasy, an exaggerated and sometimes surreal vision of playing hooky that is fun but also superficial.

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