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From Under A Rock: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

September 24, 2015 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  


There’s a first time for everything in a person’s life: the first time you lose a tooth. Then there’s the first time you put a tooth under your pillow in hopes of some serious CA$H. Then there’s the first time you wake up after the Tooth Fairy visited (and it wasn’t Dwayne Johnson), and you have $5 AND a toy replica of Saba, the White Ranger’s talking white tiger sword from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Then there’s the first time you lose your second tooth, and from that point on, the Tooth Fairy has lost her touch because you only get a dollar.

…and then there’s the first time you realize you were really spoiled as a kid.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show (determined at the discretion of my writing partner, Aaron Hubbard and I in alternation). This column is a companion piece to my podcast of the same premise, which you can check out here.

Last week, Aaron and I disagreed on the quality of The Boondock Saints. This week I take Aaron out from under the proverbial rock on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, one of my personal favorite comedies of all time..

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Michael Ornelas: This column has made me weird. When someone tells me they haven’t seen a certain movie I love, I ridicule them…but when you (or Steven on the podcast version of From Under A Rock) tell me that you haven’t seen one of my favorites, I get excited because it means we get to do it here. In the case of this movie, I got more excited than I have for my previous picks. I picked this because it’s simple, but operates on a grand scale. It’s the perfect example of the comedic concept of heightening, in which a basic premise is set up in a realistic way so that it can be explored and taken to the extreme without betraying the original idea. You have a teenager faking sick to stay home from school (simple), and by the end of it, he’s on a parade float in the middle of Chicago (the city in which I was born), with the spotlight of the city shining on him (extreme). I love that sort of ambition in comedy.

Aaron Hubbard: My first impressions are very positive, but not overwhelmingly so. John Hughes is almost always good and this is not an exception. I love the way Bueller’s reckless attitude has a dramatic effect on everyone around him. Principal Rooney gets obsessed with catching him; his best friend Cameron gets roped into things he’d never do. The characters are very fun to watch and nobody feels like a complete caricature. Again, trademark John Hughes.

Michael: Even Grace, Rooney’s assistant, feels like she has some depth despite being an absolutely ridiculous woman. It’s the little things (despite my love of the grandeur) that really set this movie apart for me. The smallest characterizations go a long way, and it’s solely because of the directing. When Rooney is on the phone with Ferris’ mom, you can see him subtly removing any speck of whatever from his desk, showing how meticulous he’s supposed to be. That makes Ferris’ triumph over him mean that much more because it legitimizes Rooney as an opponent. My favorite shot in the movie is a throwaway when Grace is pulling a pencil out from behind her ear and then finds another one…and then a third, all lost in her hair. It means nothing to the plot, but defines the character perfectly. There are countless moments like that for Ferris in the first act of the film as he’s just showing what he does for fun at home on his day off before he convinces Cameron to come pick him up. Those details are all but absent in most comedies these days, and part of why this movie holds up so well, I think.

Aaron: Definitely. I feel like I could watch this again several times and notice new character bits or little jokes. Character based humor is my favorite, and even doing something as simple as explaining the value of the car makes everything with the car more meaningful and thus, more funny. Rooney’s rant about the ramifications of Bueller’s behavior is ludicrous but it explains his motivation. Emotional connections matter in comedy as much as any other genre.

Michael: I’d argue they matter more, or else the content becomes hollow. In drama, you at least get to see the affectations of decisions while in comedy, they’re often played for a laugh. So knowing what’s behind the laugh matters so much because it’s often all you’ll get. What did you think of Jeannie and Sloan, the film’s central female characters? I think Jeannie is a much stronger character, but Sloan adds a lot in her own right.

Aaron: Jeannie is obviously a stronger character, she’s got her own story and arc. Sloan isn’t bad but doesn’t feel especially necessary. The story could more or less be the same without her. But the scene where Cameron fakes being her dad to get her out of school is probably my favorite comedy scene so I am glad she is there. And it does give Ferris a reason to talk about what his relationships will be like after he graduates.

Michael: And let’s not forget what it’s like when Ferris pretends to be Sloan’s dad.


Michael: I agree that the story would be more or less the same without Sloan, but she definitely has a certain charm to her, and I totally buy her love with Ferris. But Jeannie is amazing, and I never realized it until I watched it three days ago to write this column with you. Good antagonists are like good heels in wrestling: they rub you the wrong way, and while you enjoy their performance, you just…don’t like them. That was the case with Jeannie, but as I watched the movie more analytically instead of just for fun, I realized that her arc is the most satisfying one in the film. She, like Rooney, wants Ferris to get his comeuppance. But while Rooney is consumed by it, Jeannie realizes that she actually has a lot she can learn from her brother’s outlook on life, which is ultimately realized when she makes out with Charlie Sheen in the police station. And she also heard the adoration for Ferris from pretty much everyone at their high school, and eventually it sank in. That moment at the end where Rooney has Ferris’ house key, and it truly feels like he’s done for, Jeannie comes to the rescue and thus supports his alibi. This moment also makes a female the ultimate hero of the film, which I’m all for.

Aaron: Jeannie took a while to grow on me but once she had her first interaction with Rooney in the house I think I started enjoying her. The character I had the most trouble getting into was Ferris. I enjoy his lines and he comes across effectively as someone who is carefree and not quite ready to be an adult. But… I think that has more to do with the script than Matthew Broderick, who always looks vapid and not really invested in anything. Which works for the character but does not hold my interest.

Michael: Since you’d mentioned that last week, I actually noticed it a little bit, and I’m upset about that. I love Ferris — he’s a great character, and the epitome of creating your own destiny. And I think Broderick did a good job with him…but not as great of a job as I remembered. He has a charm and charisma to him when he’s talking that I love, but when he’s not talking and just reacting, he is kind of empty. But the character himself is iconic, and the catalyst to every other major character’s arc, most notably Cameron. Cameron’s growth in the movie is so sympathetic and exciting. I feel so happy for him when his dad’s Ferrari flies off the pedestal and crashes into woods behind his house, and he decides he’s going to own up to it after spending the whole movie blaming Ferris for his influence. He becomes a man throughout the course of the movie, and the message on the audience is clear: that they should own their decisions.

Let My Cameron Go

Aaron: Cameron is a character that I connected with immediately. I think, in pretty clear terms, you are the Ferris to my Cameron.

Michael: I feel like at least one proposal in recent history has had that exact sentence in it, now that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.

Aaron: Thanks for running away from sentiment Michael.

Michael: It’s clear I haven’t learned anything from Cameron.

Aaron: Cameron is reluctant to push boundaries and doesn’t want to cause trouble. Then Ferris comes along and gives him a gentle nudge or a big push and makes him step outside his comfort zone. I think that connection also led to me having an unusual feeling for a movie; worry. Abusive parents are a tough subject and I found myself concerned for him and hoping he gets out of things okay. When a movie can make me care about a character and worry for their safety like they are real people, something good is being done.

Michael: For sure. The emotional stakes in this feature are probably the strongest thing about it. Which leads me to the last moment I want to point out: kicking Rooney while he’s down. The credits are rolling, and he hops on a school bus, all but defeated. He has to sit next to the nerdy girl who offers him a pocket Gummi Bear…and what does he see? A kid’s binder with “Save Ferris” on it. Salt in the wound, and, to me, the most satisfying moment in the entire movie. It’s so small, but it means so much. Going back to what I said at the start of the review: the little details are the most impressive part of the movie. And for that, I will always consider this one of my favorite comedies of all time.


Aaron: There were a couple moments that fell flat for me. The whole “Twist and Shout” sequence could have been left out and I wasn’t big on the art museum scene either. But I think it’s a great movie that just falls a bit short of classic for me. Definitely glad that I watched it and bought it to watch again.


Michael: I’m glad you own it now, too. It’s one that gets watched on a yearly basis in my household, and it’s definitely one where you pick little things up on repeated viewings.

What would you do with a day off if there were no limits?

Next week:

Aaron: I watched this recently and am very happy to pick it. This is legitimately one of my very favorite films, animated or not. It flew under the radar a bit but it is simply fantastic. And other people seem to think so too, since it is getting a theatrical re-release.

Iron Giant

Michael: I consider this as something I haven’t seen even though, in full disclosure, I have. I was a kid and I wasn’t paying attention, and I remember literally nothing other than the fact that there’s a kid and a giant robot (presumably made of iron). I’m so excited for this pick because it’s by Brad Bird.

What other animated movies have fallen under the radar like The Iron Giant?

Some Like It Hot

On this week’s edition of the “From Under A Rock” podcast, Steven selects Some Like It Hot, and we’re joined by our friend Ashley Robinson.

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And if you want to read Aaron’s thoughts on movies, professional wrestling and comic books, check out The Shelf is Half Full.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an all-time comedy classic by legendary filmmaker John Hughes. The attention to detail, the grand scope of the plot, and wonderful details put this movie over the top into the spectrum of greatness. The characterizations of Cameron, Jeannie, and Ed Rooney are so sharp that they really give you a multi-dimensional viewing experience, as each draws a different extreme emotion out of you. I can personally say that upon watching this movie for the 30 or 40th time, this may have nudged into my top comedy of all time spot.