There’s a line in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which swept into theaters 25 years ago tomorrow, in which flustered principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) laments to his glue-sniffing secretary (Edie McClurg), “What is so dangerous about a character like Ferris Bueller is he gives good kids bad ideas.”
Rooney, of course, was right. If you were a teenager in 1986, Bueller’s on-screen exploits provided vicarious rebellion for kids who were naturally more Cameron Frye than Ferris. The idea of hacking the school’s computer, playing hooky, cruising to the city in a Ferrari convertible, impersonating a police officer, catching a Cubs game, and lip-syncing “Twist and Shout” on a parade float, all in the same day, forced real-life high school administrators to deal with amateur copycats who inevitably lacked the nerve and suavity to get away with even less-ambitious escapades. (For the record, a morning at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, N.J., followed by an afternoon on a rusty backyard trampoline would never have dragged Cameron out of his deathbed. Still, it seemed audacious at the time.)
Watching Bueller today from the other side of the maturity chasm is a slightly different experience. Some have proposed that it’s a deeper, more interesting film viewed through a Fight Club lens, but I think it still holds up as what it intended it to be. Though I’m less entranced by Ferris’ contrived coolness, my sympathy hasn’t shifted towards the adults in the film — Rooney and the teachers, Ferris’ blindly trusting parents, the snooty/snotty maitre d’ at Chez Quis — who are dolts all. Instead, Jeannie (Jennifer Grey) is my new Ferris. Her life is so unfair when it comes to her brother, and her ultimate reward for standing up for herself is making out with a drugged-out Charlie Sheen. Poor girl. I hope she blackmailed her bratty kid brother for years after his historic day off.
Can you believe that Ferris Bueller came out 25 years ago? Where would he be today? Certainly not a “fry cook on Venus,” as Cameron joked. Has 25 years shifted your loyalties or at least impacted the way you enjoy the movie? Can you admit now that you are and have always been more Cameron than Ferris — and that you really looked stupid wearing that Ferris-imitation vest and beret?