Words by Blythe Alspaugh
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
The 1980s vault of cult films is abundant with quotable classics that have made their way into the pool of pop culture references, each for their own reason. Among the masses comes a film encompassing the essential ‘80s cult film formula of quick-thinking characters, clever lines and a musically-charged scene for absolutely no reason—“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” begins with Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) lying in bed, presumably sick. While his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) doesn’t buy his excuses, his parents do and Ferris is ordered to stay in bed and rest. Once the rest of his family leaves the house, Ferris addresses the audience directly and explains why he’s skipping school. It’s his ninth skip day of the semester, so he has to make the day count. His plan for the perfect skip day involves roping his best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), and girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), into his antics. The three of them escape into the city of Chicago and take it by storm, all while avoiding being caught by Ferris’ parents, sister and dean of students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones).
I’m a fan of John Hughes movies. When I say I’m a fan, I mean that in a very moderate sense. For some people, John Hughes movies define their teenage and young adolescent existence. For me, I just enjoy some of his more popular films. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is one of those, arguably because the plot is the fantasy of nearly all high school students. The highlight of a free day from the confines of the classroom for my 17-year-old self involved driving into a big city, seeing the sights and maybe crashing a parade float to lip sync to one of several hit songs by The Beatles.
Fun fact: the parade Ferris crashes in the film was a real parade going on when they were filming in the city. While the scene was choreographed ahead of time, only a few people involved in the parade knew what was going to happen. As a result, the crowd reaction is genuine and the scene is one of the most memorable of the film.
Perhaps it’s a little far-fetched to have a high school student commandeer a parade, but even with all the extravagant scenes that would never happen in real life. The main thing about “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that makes it such a successful and popular movie is relatability. The main characters are average high school students, two of whom are being on the cusp of graduation, and they all have no idea what they want to do when they grow up. They know they’re going to college, but they have no idea what they’re going to do after that.
As someone who first watched this film while in high school, I immediately identified with that feeling of having no clue what I wanted to do with my life and that fear of possibly wasting it after trying to figure everything out as a teenager. It’s these qualities that have, at times, reassured me that it’s OK if I don’t have the next 40 years of my life planned out. It won’t be the end of the world and, more importantly, I’m not alone.
The relatability and genuine characteristics of the characters in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” in addition to the comedic timing and entertaining plot, are what keep me coming back to this decades-old film. As such, I’m giving it four out of five stars.