Chances are you love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as much as we do. It is in many ways the quintessential 1980s film, as it follows some lovable teens as they blow off school and stick it to the man. If you grew up in that era, the flick was pure wish fulfillment for anyone who ever felt stifled by school or their home life. Naturally then, it connected with audiences in a big way. Still does in fact, with the film being certified 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
This doesn’t mean that everyone dug it.
Easily the best well known film critics of all time, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert differed on the film when they reviewed it in 1986 on their show At the Movies. Their discussion of the movie never quite dissolves into the delightful sniping which made them so beloved, but it comes pretty close:
The verdict? Thumbs Down from Siskel, Thumbs Up from Ebert. We’re in the latter’s camp here, as we enjoy the breezy humor of the film, and how ultimately the Ferris character’s devious machinations do help Cameron get himself on a path to a better life. (Whether or not this was Ferris’ intent remains open for debate, with this writer firmly believing that the character is a borderline sociopath whose selfishness inadvertently assists Cameron as opposed to any benevolent act on his part).
Siskel here mainly seems irked at how the film doesn’t capture the excitement of the Windy City, noting that he felt that parade scene was a misfire. “That scene didn’t thrill me and I live in Chicago,” he adds, before mentioning how the Cubs game sequence also didn’t ring true with him and mentioning how he would have rather followed a movie with Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen’s characters. He even at one point even just calls it “bad.” Ouch, way harsh Gene.
For his part, Ebert doesn’t think the film is groundbreaking by any means, but he is still charmed by it. Both men can seem to agree that the Rooney subplot degrades into slapstick, something that is totally acceptable to most viewers who like to see the character get his comeuppance, cliched though it may be.
My ultimate takeaway from this review is just how much I miss seeing these guys tussle over new releases each week. Even if you disagreed with them, you still enjoyed the debate.
Chris Cummins is a writer, comics historian, and all around retronaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.