“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once and a while, you could miss the opportunity to reboot a classic movie and make a boat load of money off of it.” – an Executive at a movie company, probably.
Allow the sweet sounds of Wayne Newton to set the mood for this post:
I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off this week, not in honor of its 30th anniversary (which, coincidentally, is today, June 11th) but because I started working 40 hours a week after being on vacation and needed a mental reprieve. Boy did I get one. Have you watched Ferris Bueller lately? It’s a gem. It redacted all of my bad high school memories, and replaced them with fun ones. The ones I was supposed to have: ditching school with friends, kicking principals in the face, making out with Charlie Sheen in a police station, etc.
As I was watching Ferris trick his parents and principal with phony phone gags and some surprisingly easy computer hacking, a question popped up in my mind: how would you make this movie today? At its heart, Ferris Bueller is a movie about friendship, teenage rebellion, and straight up fun — a timeless message. But so much of Ferris is also of its own time: the music, the lack of cell phones, the Reagan presidency (without the AIDS cover-up). How do you reconcile a ubiquitous story with outdated technology and still make Ferris great? Well, here’re my two cents that may or may not be popular amongst the motorheads, geeks, sluts, and bloods:
Make Ferris a girl. There’s a good chance you’re gonna stop reading this article right now. God knows the Internet has had its conniption over the female Ghostbusters reboot and the recently announced Lady Ocean’s 11 (okay, people haven’t been that upset about this one), but I’m sure turning Ferris Bueller, a 20th century Tom Sawyer, into a 21st century Tammy Sawyer would be icing for Internet trolls. I think the reason we keep making female reboots, though, is because we’re entering an era where we’re realizing what girls have known all along: we’re cool. Even Ferris levels of cool. If you’re still reading, I’m assuming you want to hear how this affects our other cast of characters. Is Cameron a girl now, too? Does Lady Ferris spring her boyfriend out of school? Well, here goes earth shattering change and box office ruiner #2: make Lady Ferris a lesbian. Uh oh. A lesbian as the titular role in a major motion picture? Presses? Stop them. It’s over.
Okay, okay. You’re right. I don’t have a great argument for this one besides “That would be really cool to me.” Wouldn’t it be fun to play out a really great male-female friendship like Cameron and Lady Ferris on screen? Wouldn’t it be awesome to see Sloane stay the same, vaguely distant girlfriend (who hopefully has a few more lines)? Jeanie Bueller could either stay a sister or turn into a nerdy younger brother — that one’s kinda up in the air. Cameron gets to stay his sensitive dude self. Sloane gets to stay the hot girl. Jean(ie) gets to stay a pain in the neck with a redemption story. Ferris gets to enter 2016.
Here’s my worry, though: people are going to think Female Ferris is a bitch. There have been plenty of think pieces published of late disparaging our titular character and even the movie itself, saying that what makes Ferris cool actually makes him a jerk. I guess if we had a cool female Ferris the same things would be said about her, but they’d be meaner. And now that I’ve been writing about this all day, I’m starting to feel really protective of her. #SaveFemaleFerris.
“Dark & Gritty”
I’m not talking about killing Ferris’ parents and making him (or her) go through brutal training to become the superhero we deserve, but not the one we need. I’m talking about acknowledging some topics that might’ve been more taboo in 1986. Cameron’s depression, perhaps? Because, let’s face it, that dude is clinical and needs serious help. Maybe today we even say the words “clinical depression” instead of “he’s sick.” We’re getting to a place where that’s okay to bring up on television — let’s bring it up in our movies more, too.
We’ve covered Cameron’s problems. What about everyone else’s? If 1986 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reflected the optimism of a booming economy, how do we reflect a post-9/11, worst recession in history kind of pessimism? Do the kids kill someone? No. They worry about their job prospects. About reconciling how much fun they want their futures to be with how their planet is suffocating under a thick layer of smog. Cameron, particularly, would voice these worries while Ferris continually shrugs them off — until Ferris breaks. There’s a great moment where Ferris acknowledges to his audience that he’s probably never going to see his best friend after this summer. 2016 Ferris should be able to acknowledge that there are worse things that could happen.
Ferris’ heart to heart with us.
I realize I’ve not addressed a very big player yet: Principal Rooney, the most tragic character here. A man so hell-bent on destroying a young boy, he commits crimes. Real, arrest-you-put-you-in-prison CRIMES. Tsk tsk. But does 2016 Rooney even chase after his Moby Dick while his educational institute is falling apart at the seams? Maybe instead of running after Ferris all day he has to deal with the very real threat of gun violence in today’s public schools. Or maybe our zany, weirdly obsessed principal gets fired (like he probably should have in the original). Bottom line: Rooney’s comeuppance has gotta be more than what he gets in the original, and it’s gotta be dark. And funny. This is a comedy, after all.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how much Ferris was able to get away with without the Internet. Honestly, I live in the Internet age and I don’t think I would’ve been able to do all that he did (how does hacking work?). How does the Internet, and smart phones, and social media play into Ferris’ day off now, though? Maybe he just stays home and watches Hulu instead of venturing into the Windy City. Or maybe technology evolves enough in the next year that instead of hiding a dummy under his sheets, Ferris just holograms himself into it. All I’m saying is that I’d love to be in the writer’s room that gets to figure out how Ferris gets away with everything when he has access to more than just an analog phone. And how everyone else gets on with it, too. My pitch: the “Save Ferris” campaign gets launched on IndieGoGo.
My last Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reboot suggestion is my most important one: don’t do it. It’s one of the best high school comedies of all time because it’s about friendship, trouble, and getting away with it. But it’s also an of-its-time masterpiece. Trying to cobble it together again today would take away from the next great original teen comedy and lessen the original’s magic. While it’s fun to speculate dream casting for the reboot — let’s speculate on a diverse, representative cast while we’re at it (Donald Glover as Cameron, anyone?) — hopefully it’s only ever speculation.
Happy birthday, Ferris. Enjoy your day off.
You’re still here? It’s over.