Ferris Bueller's Day OffOverview -
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
"Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…" With these three words (one word, really), muttered by former Nixon speechwriter and current creationist crusader Ben Stein, a motion picture icon was born.
For the uninitiated, Ferris Bueller is a loveable high school rebel, endearingly portrayed by Matthew Broderick (whose charm almost seems to leap off the screen), who decides that it's just too nice a day to be trapped in school. So, he takes the day off. (It's what office drones and bored undergraduates now refer to as a "mental health day." 'Ferris Bueller's Mental Health Day' doesn't have quite the same ring now does it?)
But he's not in this alone. He's really trying to help his buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck) get out and enjoy life. But Cameron's too busy moping, paralyzed by hypochondria (brought about by overbearing, controlling parents). Eventually, Ferris gets both Cameron, and his super-cute girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara, incomprehensibly adorable) in on his day of leisure. Meanwhile, Ferris' sister (Jennifer Grey) and his high school principal (Jeffrey Jones) spend the day attempting to foil his enjoyment.
And, really, that's all there is to the movie.
The amazing thing is that that's okay. The movie was written and directed by that grand czar of teen angst, John Hughes, with a lightness of touch that is truly admirable. Many of Hughes other films became too mired in the 1980's-ness of it all. (Editor's Note: Here's my take on the elusive Mr. Hughes.) Amazingly, 'Ferris Bueller' feels very much of-its-time while simultaneously being truly timeless. Sure, some of the music and much of the fashion seem to stamp a date on the production (it was released in 1986), but never in a distracting way.
Much of this has to do with Hughes' direction. The movie is shot very simply (by Tak Fujimoto, who would later shoot 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Sixth Sense'), with basic set-ups, very little camera movement and Ferris often directly addressing the camera. But the way Hughes assembled the movie (with Brian De Palma's longtime editor Paul Hirsch), it has a certain rhythm and flow - a kind of effervescent bounciness, that simply cannot be contained.
There's also a certain truthfulness to Hughes' screenplay, which becomes very identifiable. The emotions are real, whether it’s the psychological abuse that Cameron goes through, or Ferris' genuine appreciation for everyday life and knack for getting into a kind of gentle, kindhearted mischief. If you haven't met a Ferris Bueller-type personality, then you haven't really experience high school. This movie is nothing short of a classic.
I'm not going to sugarcoat this - this is by no means a great looking transfer, but the film itself is able to overcome this.
There's a fair amount of grain and detail is often forgone in favor of a flatter, more washed-out look. At first this bugged me, but after a while I warmed to the transfer. Sure, it probably could have looked better (the movie isn't all that old). Still, I would have preferred this look over something so highly scrubbed that Ferris and friends came away looking like shiny androids.
The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 transfer is also probably the best 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' has ever looked. Colors are strong and blacks are fairly solid.
While this isn't a noteworthy presentation, by any stretch of the imagination, it still works within the film, and is leaps and bounds beyond previous home video incarnations.
Again - the lossless Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is strong, but won't blow the doors off your rumpus room (not that you'd think it would). It is however far more striking than the video, offering a surprisingly immersive experience for such a straightforward comedy.
While dialogue is mostly front-speaker-focused (but never overbearing), there are many moments where middle and low channels spring to life. This happens during many of the musical moments (in particular the famous parade sequence) and when our characters are out in Chicago, enjoying their day. The baseball sequence at Wrigley Field, in particular, really shines.
While you wouldn't think this level of surround sound would add all that much to the experience, it does. In fact, I was truly impressed by the crispness and clarity of the mix here (not to mention the subtlety - even the echoes of the schoolroom spring to life). It makes you feel as if you're watching the movie for the very first time, which is very big news indeed. I'm sure this is the best it's ever sounded, and a marked improvement on previous releases
Also included on the disc are French Dolby Surround 2.0, Spanish mono and subtitles in English, English for the hard of hearing, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Extras are all directly ported over from the last special edition of the movie. It would have been nice to get John Hughes involved in this one, maybe providing a commentary (as he did on a previous DVD edition). Alas, that's not the case. Also - what's up with the lack of trailer?
- Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (480p, 27:44) This fairly in-depth documentary goes into the process of casting 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' with interviews with much of the cast and the casting directors and producers. What's kind of weird is that, throughout the special features, there are no new interviews with John Hughes. (Editor's Note: Again, the man has disappeared.) Instead, they culled material from a fairly lengthy interview with him from 1986, with Hughes sporting a long, frizzy mullet, sunglasses indoors, and sitting in front of the most 1980's-looking lamp I have ever seen in my life. The lack of new Hughes material is disappointing, but my god that lamp is hilarious. This is a cute documentary if you enjoy the cast, which everyone does, so I'd recommend this.
- The Making of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (480p, 15:28) This is another interesting documentary that cuts together new interviews with the principles with vintage footage of Hughes. This brief documentary covers the production and development history of the movie, including the shocking true story that Hughes wrote the movie in less than a week. This is pretty amazing, and makes me fretting over my review of 'Ferris Bueller' seem silly.
- Who is Ferris Bueller? (480p, 9:12) This documentary explores the Ferris Bueller persona, with interviews from the principles that appear elsewhere on the disc. This is cute but not exactly insightful and probably one of the more easily skippable features.
- The Word According to Ben Stein (480p, 10:49) Oh Ben Stein. Does he love to ramble or what? I thought this was going to be a little wackier than it ended up being, but it was still pretty funny. This feature is an ongoing monologue, a kind of combination of Stein's deadpan delivery, storied history as a political operative, and out-and-out narcissism (he talks at length about how he loves being "famous"). While you may want it to go into more wacky territory too, this is a fun watch.
- Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (480p, 10:12) Broderick and Ruck goofing around on set. Skip.
- Class Album - Promotional photos. A gallery of promotional stills that look like they were taken in the JCPenny photo center. Skip.
If you love 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' then this should be a no brainer. The disc sports an improved (if not outstanding) picture and a truly wonderful soundtrack, with a sprinkle of interesting special features. Oh yeah, there's also a great movie on the disc that borders on being considered a modern day masterpiece. This is easily 'Highly Recommended.'
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