John Hughes called this film his "love letter to the city" of Chicago. Set in fictional Shermer, Illinois - as are 16 of Hughes' films - he again shows his devotion to his hometown and state by placing the action in downtown Chicago and this oft-used suburb (Shermer is actually based on Hughes' real-life hometown, Northbrook). In the city, the kids hit the stock exchange, the Sears Tower, and the Art Institute among other places. The scene in the museum is one of the film's highlights: while sifting through shots of the artwork, an instrumental version of Steven Morrissey's "Please please please let me get what I what" plays, a song that was one of the veritable anthems of the 80s. And for a moment, you forget you are watching a teen flick . . . until of course, the next scene, when Ferris crashes a parade to sing "Twist and Shout." Look closely at the dancers in that sequence; they are actually doing the dance from "Thriller."
Broderick, who earned a 1987 Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is joined by a fine supporting cast. Alan Ruck plays hypochondriac friend Cameron, who is exactly as his father's vanity plate declares: NRVOUS. Ruck would also have a memorable role in Speed(1994), but is best known for the television series Spin City. Mia Sara plays his girlfriend Sloane; she appeared previously opposite Tom Cruise in Legend(1985). Jeffrey Jones plays the hapless and beleaguered "Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students" who ineffectively tries all day to bust the hooky-playing teen. He would have made a good team with Ferris' seething-with-jealousy sister Jeanie, played by Jennifer Grey, but unfortunately their meeting ends up with a karate kick to the head, a bloodied nose, and Grey declaring she has "a scorching case of herpes." Jones does an about-turn performance from his Emperor Jones II role in Amadeus (1984), and Grey would go on to stardom the next year as Baby in Dirty Dancing (1987).
Broderick and Grey were dating and ultimately engaged just before the release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but while on holiday in Ireland were involved in a fatal car accident that killed two - they later split. Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward played Ferris' parents, roles that they couldn't seem to get enough of - they were married after the film's release. Charlie Sheen, the spaced-out druggie in the police station, delivers the film's finest cameo. Sheen stayed awake for over 48 hours in order to achieve the wrecked look of his character. Method acting at its finest! Sheen would join up with Ruck later in Spin City.
As with most Hughes' films, there are hidden references to his other films. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, look for the license plates; most are acronyms for his earlier works. Also, Ferris' bedroom wall features a Simple Minds poster, a band featured prominently in The Breakfast Club(1985) - Hughes personally decorated the room himself. There is even more John Hughes in the film than you might have guessed: it is his hand, not Cameron's, that turns the speakerphone on and off in Cameron's bedroom. And a picture of Hughes as depicted by his 6-year old son is on the Bueller's refrigerator!
Ferris Bueller's Day Off retains incredible popularity fifteen years after its release: several websites are devoted to it, with extensive information about movie-related merchandise, and it even inspired a band to call themselves Save Ferris. Critics ravaged the film upon release, calling it "a sad fiasco" and "airheads without a cause." But audiences embraced Ferris Bueller's Day Off, perhaps because they caught the message the critics missed: a joyride from reality. And when a snooty maitre d' declares dryly, "I weep for the future," fans of Ferris just laugh and say, "Leisure rules."
Producer: Michael Chinich, John Hughes, Tom Jacobson
Director/Screenplay: John Hughes
Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto
Music: Arthur Baker, Ira Newborn, John Robie, Yello
Editing: Paul Hirsch
Production Design: John W. Corso
Cast: Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller), Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye), Mia Sara (Sloane Peterson), Jeffrey Jones (Edward R. 'Ed' Rooney), Jennifer Grey (Jeanie Bueller), Cindy Pickett (Katie Bueller), Lyman Ward (Tom Bueller), Edie McClurg (Grace), Charlie Sheen (boy in police station), Ben Stein (Economics Teacher).
C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Eleanor Quin