Matthew Broderick plays Ferris Bueller, an ageing Roger the Dodger who manages to convince his entire community that he’s seriously ill while he actually spends the day out and about in Chicago with his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). Someone should have just told him that 30 years olds don’t even have to go to school.
Ferris is one of those people for whom everything seems to go right. He’s good at everything he turns his mind to, making him the greatest cinematic polymath since Burt in Mary Poppins. As a result he’s rather cocky, taking him dangerously close to being irritating. But his largely harmless antics are entertaining enough to keep him likeable.
It has an anarchic teen spirit to it, but never succumbs to nastiness: it’s more Home Alone than Project X. Broderick does better in Bueller’s zanier moments – his straight scenes and lines to the audience often end up sounding wooden. But overall he does a good job anchoring the film.
It’s a classic cat-and-mouse tale, as suspicious school Principal Rooney (Jeffrey John) goes in search of Bueller, who he suspects of trying to pull a fast one. He also faces opposition from his jealous sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) who has grown tired of her brother’s antics.
It’s excellently plotted, which, as we’ve noted before, is typical of many comedies of the 80s and early 90s (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dave, Tootsie ). As a result it manages to create a sense of tension, even though the stakes are extremely low.
It has a handful of incredibly inspired scenes, with blink-or-you-miss-it gags peppering every minute, and benefits from the fact it often eschews the obvious. Think films like Click, Bruce Almighty or The Invention of Lying, where the first thing men in possession of a great power do is something sexual. But Bueller joins in a parade (unusually scheduled during school hours) and the three friends head to a modern art gallery just to look at the paintings.
What is essentially an elaborate farce is given an offbeat oddity through its unique view of the world. The fact it’s about spoiled, white American teenagers should in and of itself make this unwatchable, but the often surreal, deadpan humour makes up for it. This is hard core low effort entertainment – perfect for a lazy day off.