“How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?”
The question you’re probably asking right now is, Why are the folks at Paramount re-releasing a Blu-ray edition of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” when they just released it on Blu-ray not more than a year and a half earlier? Is it a better encode, a transfer with better picture and sound? No. Does it include more extras this time around? No. In fact, it appears to be exactly the same disc the studio already issued. What the new release seems to be is a reason to celebrate the 1986 movie’s twenty-fifth anniversary and give it a new slipcover. Paramount, knowing a good thing when they see it, have released “Ferris” in a number of different editions over the years, and these latest Blu-ray releases are a pleasure to see and hear in high definition.
So, if you already own the movie on Blu-ray, there’s no need for this newer release. If you don’t already have it, however, the new edition makes a great excuse to get it. There’s no time like the present.
The thing about “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” from a retired high school English teacher’s point of view is that if kids are going to cut, I wish they’d do it the way Ferris did it. Most kids in my experience waste a perfectly good truancy at the mall or hanging out with their friends in the park or just staying home playing video games while their parents work. I mean, take a clue from Ferris: If you’re going to cut, do it right.
“This is my ninth sick day this semester. It’s pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for ten, I’m probably going to have to barf up a lung, so I better make this one count.”
Matthew Broderick plays Ferris Bueller, teenage con artist supreme, a fellow who knows how to manipulate people and the world around him for maximum personal benefit. Not that he’s manipulative in a bad way, however. He doesn’t try to cheat or hurt anybody. Indeed, he tries hard to make the lives of those around him happier, at least those who will accept his help. His sister, played by Jennifer Grey, is one of only two people in the film who knows Ferris for the conniver he is, and she can’t stand it. She’s envious. She can’t bear that he’s getting away with something she can’t get away with, or is too afraid to try.
John Hughes wrote and directed “Ferris Bueller,” a movie that is funny, satiric, bright, and inventive, sagging around the two-thirds mark but coming through with an exhilarating finish. Hughes practically owned the 80’s, with movies like “Sixteen Candles,” The Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and “Uncle Buck.” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was the high-water mark of his career.
The story follows Ferris’s adventures during one school day in the spring of his senior year when he decides enough is enough, he needs a break (or, better, another break). He must cut school. But he needs accomplices, so he talks his cheerleader girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, played by Mia Sara, and his hypochondriac best friend, Cameron Frye, played by Alan Ruck, into going along with him. Cameron is in special need of Ferris’s help; his ego is at an all-time low. They make their escape from suburbia to the big city, Chicago, in Cameron’s father’s pride and joy, a bright red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider, a car the father loves more than life itself. (According to one of the disc’s accompanying featurettes, the real car was too expensive for insurance reasons to use in the film, so the filmmakers used several fiberglass kit cars. It’s a relief, actually, considering what the car goes through.)
Leaving school and their economics teacher, famously played by Ben Stein (“Anyone? Anyone?”), far behind, they set out on their escapades. They visit the world’s tallest building; stop in on the Stock Exchange; eat lunch at a snobby restaurant; attend a Cubs game; go to an art museum; and sing and dance in a street parade, which features the movie’s showstopping production numbers, Ferris lip-synching to Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” and the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.”
Some of the movie’s funniest characters, however, appear in supporting roles, such as Mr. Edward R. Rooney, the school’s Dean of Students, played by Jeffrey Jones, who, like Ferris’s sister, suspects Ferris is getting away with something and is determined to catch him in the act, pursuing Ferris all over town, always one step behind. Then, too, we find Charlie Sheen as a laid-back delinquent in a police station, Richard Edson as a “professional” parking-garage attendant, Edie McClurg as Mr. Rooney’s secretary, and Jonathan Schmock as a snooty maitre d’ all contributing to the fun.
The film board rated “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” PG-13 for periodic profanity, but I hope that triviality doesn’t stop anybody from enjoying it.
It’s nice to find a favorite movie fairly well preserved and well presented. The Paramount video engineers use a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec to reproduce the picture in this 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, and it looks pretty good, given its age. Colors are rich, bright, radiant, and deep, and delineation is reasonably crisp. Close-ups don’t reveal as much facial detail as one would like, the features looking a bit soft, but it’s a minor concern. The print is fairly clean, with adequate black levels, just a touch of natural print grain to help create a pleasant texture, and only a few traces of age to mark this as a decades-old film. It’s sharp, bright, clear, and clean, with only the slight softness of facial characteristics I mentioned earlier to detract from an otherwise fine effect.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio does what it can with the film’s soundtrack, the rear channels opening up the movie’s spatiality via some faint rear signals, evident particularly in the ambient bloom of musical numbers. Otherwise, the TrueHD helps out mainly by making the dialogue more audible and by smoothing out and firming up the overall sonics.
The extras on this twenty-fifth anniversary Blu-ray edition are the same ones Paramount used for its 2006 “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller” DVD edition and its 2009 Blu-ray edition, namely, a series of 2005 featurettes that intercut vintage interviews and footage with more recent material from the cast and crew. Again, they’re in standard definition. First, there’s “Getting the Class Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” about twenty-eight minutes with the filmmakers discussing their roles in the picture. Next, there’s “The Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” about fifteen minutes, mostly with the writer and director, John Hughes. After that is “Who Is Ferris Bueller?,” nine minutes on the creation of the character, followed by “The World According to Ben Stein,” eleven minutes with Nixon’s most famous speechwriter, sometime actor, and all-around know-it-all. Then we get “Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes,” about ten minutes with Broderick, Ruck, and Jones doing mock interviews on the set; and a “Class Album,” a photo gallery.
The bonuses conclude with fourteen scene selections; bookmarks; pop-up menus; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. For the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, Paramount have enclosed the disc in a slipcover that includes a map of the characters’ adventures around Chicago. The BD itself comes in one of those flimsy Eco-cases that enable you to save the planet while endangering your disc.
I would caution the viewer not to read too much into “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” There is certainly a degree of rebellion in Ferris and a dash of teenage angst in Cameron, but basically Hughes is handing us a joyful bit of fluff. As Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The film is not to miss, either. Or the Ferrari (fiberglass knockoff or not).
“You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.”