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'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' is the '80s escape that is still totally on point

This classic comedy has withstood the test of time, which is reassuring in these most uncertain times.
/ Source: TODAY

Finding relief while America grapples with the laundry list of issues it faces has proven to be more of a challenge than what Ferris had in store while rolling back the odometer on Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari.

If you get that reference, then you may also understand that while we deal with the stress and anxiety of our current world, one of the ways pop culture has sought to quell our nerves has been through nostalgia. Comfort TV has served as an avenue for leaving your worries behind, but seeing casts of your favorite films has been another method to put on a smile.

Josh Gad has capitalized on this strategy with his timely “Reunited Apart” series, which brings back casts of iconic films to talk about their projects.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was the subject of such an episode released Sunday. Extolling the virtues of a 1980s comedy is not new terrain, although this one, right now, absolutely captivates the senses.

For people of a certain age, it’s not necessarily watching the film again that is so enjoyable (although it is); it’s the sights and sounds of the decade casually placed throughout it. Yes, it is delightful to watch Ferris outfox Mr. Rooney, the dean of students, while he plays hooky. Yes, it is funny and imaginative. Yes, it is one of a litany of titles the late John Hughes wrote and/or directed that possesses a premium spot in the pantheon of wonderful ‘80s high school movies.

FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Matthew Broderick, 1986, (c) Paramount/courtesy Evere
Ferris (Matthew Broderick), Sloane (Mia Sara) and Cameron (Alan Ruck) check out some art during their infamous day off from school.(C)Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

Rewatching the flick now, though, puts the decade into sharp focus and makes you clamor for a different time, despite the fact that even though things didn’t make sense as you staggered through adolescence, they today somehow seem, well, comforting. If you were a kid when the movie came out in 1986, you can see and smell and feel your own life in the subtle nuances of that period peppered throughout that you may not have thought twice about when you initially saw it because they were so common then.

The wallpaper (wallpaper!) in Ferris’ house, the pay phone in the school where the freshmen call Ferris to see how he’s feeling and the Maxell tape Ferris used to record his fake greeting that plays when Mr. Rooney comes to the front door are just some of the blasts from the past that will rekindle what it felt like to live through that time.

FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Matthew Broderick, 1986, (c) Paramount/courtesy Evere
Only Ferris Bueller could've figured out a way to lead parade in Chicago while skipping school.(C)Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

The Simple Minds poster in Ferris’ bedroom, the movie marquee with “Teen Wolf” in the background when he, Cameron and Sloane are in traffic before the big parade scene and the powder blue Chrysler that Rooney drives also provide a glimpse at bygone days. You can almost will yourself back to the arcade where you pumped in quarter after quarter while watching the scene in a pizza parlor where Rooney mistakes a girl playing video games for Ferris.

And when Ferris laments having to take a test on European socialism, really, who among us can’t identify? The film’s story is great, as is the depiction of the period. It’s 2020, but watching this movie will send you back to 1986 for too brief a time.

“It’s so choice,” Ferris declares when talking about driving Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari, an ‘80s line that has sailed by, but is welcome in retrospect. Such a line, to borrow another colloquialism from the decade, is rad.

The aforementioned parade scene is one of the film’s most popular and one can’t help but ponder the likelihood that if Ferris led a citywide singalong today, someone would’ve whipped out a phone, splashed a clip of him on Twitter and tracked down his identity quicker than the time it takes to say “Oh Yeah.” Mr. Rooney wouldn’t have busted Ferris; social media would have.

But that’s the beauty of looking back. In that time, in that moment, such a possibility didn’t exist. It was a different era and right now it’s an escape that is most welcome. There’s a certain naiveté when it comes to looking in the past, as if everything was more innocent and more orderly. It’s not true, but it’s a narrative that fits.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” holds up remarkably well, more than three decades after its release. It perfectly describes its own generation, pulling off the impressive feat of being cool at the time and remaining so all these years later. The ‘80s were not immune from trouble and angst, but if you grew up during that decade, you remember all of those little things that “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” presented. You can feel the 1980s breathing all over again. Watching it is a trip back in time for 2020, when we sure could use one.