To end his high school saga is the charismatic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, an entry into John Hughes’ filmography that has grown its praise over the years with its self-aware leading man and the antics he finds himself into in his break from the dullness that is school. Hughes has created a figure that many would admire, one whose shoes they wish to slip on, an all-around individual who has won the hearts and minds of those around him; except of course Principal Edward Rooney and Ferris’ sister, Jeanie.
Hughes’ last three films carry a sense of honesty in their ideas, highlighting them in ways that are easily accessible and almost revelatory to those who are unaware of these predicaments; I personally felt his first two features were tight in direction, ensuring his ideas remain in the forefront and retains a sense of honesty in its grounded approach. It was in Weird Science where Hughes began to lose this sense of cohesion in both his plot and themes, providing an experience that is unrewarding. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may not be as off the rails as Weird Science, but it does stray from its path frequently in an attempt to gain big laughs from his individualised gags, which hits its mark infrequently.
The film’s core message is spoken in its initial scenes, found in between its lines of humour that pushes the idea of living our life to the fullest and there isn’t any harm of taking a break from our routine. No doubt its intentions are good, but Hughes’ delivery through his protagonist comes off as ignorant and proudly rebellious instead of being profound. Ferris carries a narcissistic and delusional perspective that I found him to be an unlikeable subject; showing too much pride in his lies and manipulation that never becomes redeemed despite his sympathetic heart towards the end of the film.
John Hughes treats its adventures through Chicago the same way Woody Allen does for Manhattan, a far more insightful touristic route that exposes its beauty and opportunities, which I was able to admire but when compared to Allen’s effort, it comes off as pale as his venues and the antics the characters find themselves into don’t carry that weight or wonder that Allen was able to bring; although I did adore Hughes’ usage of arguably The Beatles’ strongest single, Twist and Shout, one that manages to have glorious fun without becoming lost or unappealing in its excessiveness.
It would have helped if it penetrated its characters further, a daily journey that opens up avenues for growth and possibilities, which the film only does barely with Ferris’ best friend, Cameron Frye. Cameron is lives an unsatisfying domestic life where he is constantly at conflict with his father, at times unable to stand up for himself due to the fear of the consequences that may arise in confrontation; a character trait that is similarly found in both of its characters in Hughes’ previous film, Weird Science. My appreciation for the film would have grew if Cameron’s issues relate strongly to Ferris’ actions, instead the whole thing comes off as a chaotic sense of randomness that never comes together by the time it reaches its conclusion.
Hughes perspective of the young carries an antagonistic outlook towards the old, with adults constantly seen as cruel authoritarians that are relentless in ensuring that discipline and respect is captured; this was the case in three of Hughes’ previous films, which become more apparent and harsher with each passing film. Sixteen Candles showed adults with a sense of understanding to their children’s angsts, taking on a sympathetic and optimistic persona that establishes a trust within their relationship; in Ferris Bueller’s world, they are seen as ignorant, dull, or cruel, finding very little appeal of their existence, a manipulative instrument amplified in their kicks and giggles.
Ferris Bueller manages to stay afloat as it doesn’t push itself to the maximum as Hughes’ previous entry, but it also lacks the emotional resonance and honesty in its themes as his first two features; a classic this may be but definitely an underwhelming one.