Like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial before it, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a birthday movie. Unlike E.T., however, I have seen Ferris Bueller so many times that it’s a challenge to think critically about it. It’s hard to critique an actor’s performance when you’ve been quoting dialogue exactly as he said it for 25 years. Plus the movie’s just so easy to love – even George Will loves it. Nonetheless, I did have a few thoughts on my most recent viewing.
First, I think it presents an interesting editing challenge. There are essentially seven Chicago scenes – Sears Tower, mercantile exchange, lunch, baseball game, Art Institute, parade, and taxi – that can be cut together in several different ways. Editor Paul Hirsch describes how swapping the order of the Art Institute and parade scenes (how were they ever in any other order?!) changed the entire tone of the movie. Incidentally, I wonder if the others are in the original order, as the scene where Ferris and his dad are next to each other in taxis after the parade makes more sense if it follows the scene where they both get in taxis after lunch.
Second, I liked the dolly work in the scenes when Ferris runs through his neighbors’ backyards. I wish that it could have been one take, but it was pretty clever to conceal the edits in the hedges. For some reason, it made me think of David Fincher channeled by John Hughes (although I imagine Fincher would have done it in one take).
Third, how much did it cost to get the actual theme to Star Wars for the Ferrari scene? And how worth it was that choice? Anything else would’ve sounded wrong, like the fake “Stairway to Heaven” riff in all but the theatrical release of Wayne’s World.
In the end, Ferris Bueller is a well-cast, competently shot movie that just doesn’t put me in film nerd mood. Not that there aren’t some interesting film nerd topics out there: Ferris is to Cameron as Tyler Durden is to the narrator? Maybe in another post . . .