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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/10/00

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
1986 (1999) - Paramount

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/C+

Specs and Features

102 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director John Hughes), film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"I asked for a car, I got a computer. How's that for being born under a bad sign?"

John Hughes, a writer/director who kicked teen angst flicks up another notch in the 80's with flicks like The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, logged one more classic with Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The story follows the popular, and cocky, Ferris (played to smug perfection by Matthew Broderick) as he skips school, emancipates his girlfriend from said school, torments his principal, grabs his best friend and takes a day-long joyride in a 1961 Ferrari. High school never got this good for most of us, which is probably why this film remains such a classic today.

As far as "films" go, this one isn't that spectacular. A strong beginning, featuring witty asides to the audience, and an action packed ending only moderately make up for what turns out to be a weak middle. Many of the subtle jokes just don't deliver. To be honest though, there are two major high points in there, with the parade scene and again with the amusing antics of Principal Rooney (hilariously portrayed by Jeffrey Jones) trying to break into Bueller's house. The problem is, Hughes seems to let the script get a bit too disjointed. If you listen to the audio commentary, you'll quickly see just how much of the film was ad libbed during shooting. This usually brings up some of the funnier, more natural bits, but it also causes the overall tightness of the early and later scenes to come a bit unwoven. Despite these shortcomings, the film comes together nicely, powered mainly by the top-notch performances of Broderick, Jones and Alan Ruck, who plays Ferris' socially anemic best friend Cameron.

Still, here it is on DVD, almost 15 years later and the film still holds up. Maybe it's because of the enduring archetypes of high school and how adults relate to kids, or maybe it's just an easy to digest story with some snappy dialogue. Either way, Ferris comes through in his typical style and we love him for it.

In terms of quality, the video transfer is nice. It really benefits from the anamorphic treatment, and while there are no explosions to blow you away, the subtle things are really bolstered. For example, skip to the parade scene and check out the vibrancy and sharpness of the crowd and colored balloons - looks nice, doesn't it? There are no major artifacts to be found, but then again, the visual material doesn't really demand too much. Speaking of that parade scene, the sound is really flexed here. While the sound comes out a bit flat overall in some areas, it does bring the atmosphere of the film to life. Broderick's musical performance on a parade float is really brought to new heights with this DVD.

Where the disc falls flat is on the extras front (which isn't too surprising coming from Paramount). While the rare and welcomed commentary from Hughes is solid and very insightful, the disc boasts nothing more. No theatrical trailer. No cast or crew bios. Only a very basic, if effective, menu system rounds out the package. Those are very slim pickings indeed. However, the commentary does a good bit to save the day. While Hughes is not exactly the liveliest fellow on the planet, his comments are incredibly perceptive. You get the distinct feeling that, all these years later, Hughes is still very much aware of his work, even if he does take it a bit seriously. You really come away with an appreciation for how much Hughes brought his own history to the film. Another major plus with the commentary is how it points out the crew cameos -- check out the dramatic use of Hughes' hand throughout the film.

All around, this disc is worth having just because of what it is. Any fan of this film (or Hughes' work in general) will love owning this DVD, and will appreciate the overall presentation quality. The extras are anemic, but the commentary from Hughes is of good quality, and brings a great deal of insight to a film that wouldn't normally get too much thought. We wouldn't skip school to get this disc, but if you have a day off, why not spend it with Ferris?

Brad Pilcher
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