Beuller? Beuller? Beuller?… Beuller?… Beuller? Where’s Ferris? Oh, there he is on the floor. Brought to his knees and he still hasn’t learned anything.
Writer/director Alexander Payne brings us to George Washington Carver High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) has been teaching history and civics for 12 years and won teacher of the year for three.
It’s time to elect next year’s student council president, and the only candidate is over-achiever Tracy Flick. Jim’s best friend, fellow teacher Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik), had to leave town due to an illicit affair with Tracy, so Jimbo is none too enamored with Ms. Flick. As he’s not looking forward to quality time with Tracy as council advisor, Jim finds an opponent for her in likable but dim football star, Paul Metzler (Chris Klien). Resentful, Tracy will do anything to win, and her ethical lapses pile up almost as fast as Jim’s do. Hilarity ensues.
Jim and the candidates provide voiceover narration throughout from the perspective at the end, but it’s soon clear that none of them of them have learned anything. With Broderick’s character, it’s as if Ferris Beuller woke up at age 35 and found out he’s Mr. Rooney. Now he’s staring at a female doppelganger, at once more smug and ruthless, and is determined to teach her a lesson.
Payne’s previous film, “Citizen Ruth”, explored the consequences of beliefs over-riding morals and common sense. This new film, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, presents the repercussions of impulse over-riding morals, ethics, and common sense. Kids often skate through their mistakes protected by some sort of fairy godmother. Adults have no such luxury; they’re supposed to know better. To the end, Jim McAllister deludes himself about his culpability and his happiness.
Former vice-president Dan Quayle once stated that “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” was his favorite movie. Featuring a smug, popular lead character who never paid the price for his actions, you can see the attraction. It never lasts, though, just like Quayle’s political career. With this film, Dan can either relate to his final fate or find a chilling new role model.