I've done it. You've done it. And a movie seemed to legitimize it. I'm talking about the mental health day. The ability to shirk responsibility, albeit for a brief moment, to go out and have fun. That's what Ferris Bueller's Day Off has shown us in the more than two decades since its release. Ask anyone under 40 about the personal importance of that movie, and not only will they tell those who haven't seen it to go see it immediately, they will recite the dialogue. Friends of mine, businessman, fathers of children, will quote the differences between a car and computer. It's influenced their lives that much. But there's a good reason for that.
For those unfamiliar with this cinematic tome, John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) wrote and directed the film in which Matthew Broderick (WarGames) plays Bueller. He pulls off having a fake undetermined illness to fool his parents, not to mention annoy his younger daughter Jeanie (Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing). He manages to get his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, Timecop) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck, Spin city) involved in the fun and hijinks. At the school where the three go to school, the Dean of Students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones, Amadeus) smells something fishy in the air. And the film's 102 minutes is spent both on Ferris, Sloane and Cameron enjoying the sights and sounds of Chicago one last time before everyone heads their separate ways.
At its lovable little heart, Ferris Bueller's Day Off accomplishes a couple of things with the little gesture of "cold, clammy hands" and vague stomach nausea. Ferris gives us all a chance to enjoy ourselves. As the character, Broderick gives us a warm and inviting face who constantly breaks the fourth wall down to pull us into the journey. His countenance allows the viewer to enjoy what he does and who he's with, regardless of what viewer he might be trying to reach. Combine it with Hughes' inate ability to tell the story with wit and make the characters so darn affable, and it only furthers the cause.
To follow up on something I mentioned in passing, during the "John Hughes decade" of the 1980s, we all know how firm his grasp on the comedic elements of a story were, and how he was able to illustrate them. Most of his movies seemed to have one or two scenes in them than one could make the case were a natural progression of Three Stooges cinema, with slapstick humor and imagery where you could almost literally bust a gut. But the knack that Hughes had at capturing the voice of teen emotions at that time, many of those emotions in his films that I was sharing and could relate to, was better and more effective than any lecture or classroom experience I could have sit through. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is another instance of this, but it also transcends the normal age demographic as well. A little spiteful rebellion to stop and smell the roses is always a good thing.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.35:1 1080p high definition using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, Ferris Bueller's Day Off isn't visually superb by any stretch of the imagination. This appears to be due to shooting style and visual look more than anything else. Fleshtones are reproduced to a fair degree, but the image lacks any real discernible detail either in the foreground or backgrounds. Blacks stand out more than they do on the standard definition disc, but if you're looking to upgrade from the 2006 "Bueller...Bueller..." standard definition disc, you're not going to see any real boost in visual quality.
While the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is nice, it's an underwhelming effort. There were only a few sequences where the rear channels got involved in the feature (starting when the Ferrari takes the jump and sporadically after that), and there's no level of ambient noise that would make you forget your listening to canned '80s crap music. Hughes knows where to incorporate said music, and it sounds clear. Dialogue stays in the center channel but tends to fluctuate a little bit, and subwoofer activity is nil. In a sense, the soundtrack reminds me of the era; hollow and not all that enjoyable.
Everything from the 2006 disc is brought over to this disc, which means the Hughes commentary (which was on an earlier version of the film) is not here. And on the whole, the extras are boring. "Getting the Class Together" (27:44) is your basic retrospective featurette on the film with some participation by the cast, but those who don't participate appear in archived footage. They talk about the work on the film and what it meant to them, along with how people have responded to their roles in it since then. A making of look is next (15:26), but that's more of the same approach the first featurette had, it just includes interviews with the more peripheral cast and crew. Yawn. "Who is Ferris Bueller?" (9:06) looks at the character with interviews from cast members who worked with Broderick the most, while "The World According to Ben Stein" (10:51) examines Stein's life, or at least the fun parts of it, as he describes working on the set for a couple of days that many remember. "Vintage Ferris Bueller" (10:01) is a bunch of on-set footage where the cast plays around with one another in interview settings, and a stills gallery titled "Class Album" rounds things out.
I'm in a quandary over Ferris Bueller's Day Off. One hand has me say that because of the shoddy treatment given to the film that it should be avoided at all costs. The supplements could be much better, and technically it seems like Paramount was going through the motions is getting this Blu-ray made. On the other hand, the nostalgia fan in me says go for it, that there's nothing to lose. Your kids are watching this film, and your kids' kids will be watching it. I'll split it down the middle and recommend it for those who don't have a copy of it yet, as it's hardly worth the double dip "upgrade" option.