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Almost Famous

Director Cameron Crowe extends his autobiographical homage to 70s rock —Risë Keller (DVD review...)

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Ferris Bueller is still a pretty “righteous dude,” but this release is not a righteous Blu.

Save Ferris

Blu-ray for a relatively simply-produced comedy from the mid-'80s? Why not.
Blu-ray for a relatively simply-produced comedy from the mid-’80s? Why not.

Back in the ’80s, John Hughes was an unrivaled cinematic trailblazer. During the course of seven wildly productive years he directed seven popular, epoch-defining flicks, The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Weird Science among them. He also wrote and/or produced a slew of other hits before tanking with Curly Sue in 1991. Since then he’s been involved in loads of junk like Dennis the Menace, Baby’s Day Out and Maid in Manhattan. Wow.

In the thick of Hughes’ hay-making period was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a mild success in theaters that achieved “cult classic” status thanks to home video, much like Napoleon Dynamite several years later.

In brief, Ferris Bueller is a high school kid with a charmed life. His parents adore him, his sister is insanely jealous of him, everyone else at school admires him (except for the principal) and his girlfriend is incredibly hot.

Taking yet another day off from school, Bueller spends the morning managing the parents, the principal and the implementation of his free day. Then he’s off with friends Sloane (Mia Sara, Legend) and Cameron (Alan Ruck, Ghost Town) to check out an art exhibit, hijack a parade float and basically reaffirm the message that life is short. Live it up!

Question Authority

Compared to the majority of high school comedies these days (and just about anything with the names Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen attached), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a lighthearted, inoffensive affair.

As a precursor to the higher-minded “Seize the day” of Dead Poets Society, this happy little flick finds its shred of substance in the friendship between Ferris and Cameron. Thanks to Ferris, Cameron finally starts to put life (on the verge of high school graduation) in perspective. Tightly wound and stuck under the thumb of his well-to-do father, Cameron finally gets his release after totaling his dad’s prized Ferrari.

Living in suburban Chicago, none of the lead kids ever speak a word of being worried about money or finding a job. It’s the mid-’80s and Ferris’ biggest stressor is maintaining his relationship with Sloane as he moves on while she still rounds out her high school stint. But even that “stressor” is mentioned more in passing than as something that weighs all that heavily on Ferris’ forever-young mind.

Thankfully, Ben Stein, one of the financial gurus on Fox and former host of Win Ben Stein’s Money, is on the scene as a teacher of economics. His half-hearted conversational manner bores all his students into a borderline catatonic stupor. And because of that droll, monotone voice, the infamous line, “Bueller... Bueller...” is entrenched in the American lexicon.

Blu-ray Extras

All of the video supplements are presented in standard definition (1.33:1) and are rehashed from the 2005 DVD release. It’s disappointing to report the John Hughes running commentary from last year’s “I Love the ’80s” edition DVD is NOT included. That’s really lame, Paramount. Certainly a lack of disc space cannot be the excuse.

The presentation quality earns no bonus points. The only “full screen” feature is a little something called Class Album, which is a collection of 18 studio shots of Broderick, Sara, and Ruck, or some combination of the three.

Getting the Cast Together: The Cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (28 minutes) is a decent behind-the-scenes look at — you guessed it — the cast.

It’s nice to see many of the principles in relatively new interviews, but John Hughes and Mia Sara are two notable exceptions. Throughout the supplements, John and Mia are stuck in the ’80s, shown only in vintage interview clips from 1985-86.

Mia comes across as so elegant and perfect in Ferris and Legend, but in some of the interviews here she briefly lets her true colors show and there’s a glimmer of her Brooklyn upbringing. John Hughes, unfortunately, comes across as some sort of whack enigma, stuck in time in a baggy ’80s outfit and oversized sunglasses (while indoors).

Hughes contributed the commentary to last year’s DVD double-dip, so he’s still alive in the new millennium. And so is Mia, who’s gone on to have a baby and lots of TV work. Whatever the rationale for the lack of current supplemental participation from these two, it’s lame. Especially since that Hughes commentary is sitting around on a 9-month-old DVD release. A big “L” to the forehead.

The Making of Bueller’s Day Off (15 minutes) offers some good bits of information, including insight into Hughes’ speedy writing style (he reportedly wrote Ferris in six days). There’s also a funny bit of trivia about the infamous red Ferrari. They couldn’t even afford the insurance to have the real car simply sit on the set, so they had to resort to models.

The World According to Ben Stein (11 minutes) is the best segment on the disc. Featuring interview clips from 1985 and 2005, Ben Stein is given the opportunity to explain how we all ultimately owe “Bueller... Bueller...” to Richard Nixon. He also compares Ferris to the New Testament. Do check it out.

Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (10 minutes) is a little annoying. It’s basically footage of Broderick and Ruck interviewing each other, and proving some people simply aren’t good at improvisation. Other interview material is included as well.

Who is Ferris Bueller? (9 minutes) is a retrospective on the character and Matthew Broderick. Take it or leave it.

Blu-ray Exclusives

There are none.

Picture and Sound

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is decent, but unremarkable. Front-channel heavy, it lacks much in the way of sound design and surround effects. Then again, this is a relatively simply-produced comedy from the mid-’80s. It delivers the sound required to get the movie’s point across.

The other audio options are French 2.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish monaural. Subtitles are available in English (and English SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

As for the picture, it too is serviceable. Nice, but not Blu perfection. It goes soft on occasion, but, as with the sound, consider the source and enjoy thinking back on the far simpler era from which this movie came.

How to Use This Disc

Bueller... Bueller... Watch The World According to Ben Stein and learn. Then take the rest of the day off with Ferris and relive the movie.