Thursday, May 13, 2010

Harvey the Rabbit's Day Off

In 1986 I was working at a summer camp and a couple of the other staff members came in from "town" after seeing a movie on their night off. I didn't immediately know what they saw but one was still so excited about the movie he said to the other "Say Ferris!" Or that's what I thought he said. Turns out he said "Save Ferris" but that didn't make any sense either. It should be clear to you now that the movie they went to see was The Karate Kid II.

Personally I think they should have been saying "Save Ali" since for whatever reason Elizabeth Shue's character (Ali) didn't make it into KK2. I don't know why she wasn't in the movie, contract reasons, I guess. Being the box office mega super star that she is, they probably couldn't afford her. Anyway, I chose not to see the film so I can't really tell you much about it except that it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song by the guy that used to sing for Chicago. Not the "Does anybody really know what time it is?" guy, but the one who sang "Stay the Night".

Another movie that came out that summer was Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Hm, they probably should have seen that one. Much more interesting in my opinion. For those of you who haven't seen it, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is about a high school senior from an upscale neighborhood in Chicago. Because, well, it's a John Hughes film and they all revolve around upscale neighborhoods in Chicago. Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is months away from graduating and wants one more day off of school to goof off with his friends Cameron (Alan Ruck) and Sloane (Mia Sara) so he fakes being sick and his parents leave him at home but he doesn't stay there long. All during their adventure they are being chased by the school principal who is on to their little scheme and wants to catch them for truancy and for being meddling kids. So in the course of a school day they are able to trick the school into letting Sloane out, visit the Stock Exchange, the Sears Tower, see a Cubs game, dine in a high-end restaurant, visit an art museum, participate in a parade, hang out in a swimming pool and get back before his parents get home. That's an amazing accomplishment considering a school day is around 7 hours! Good thing they had a snazzy little sports car to zip around town in.

Except, they weren't in the Ferrari very much. Come to think of it, they weren't in much of a hurry all day. How then... could they have done all that in such a short period of time!?

One theory I stumbled across gives FBDO the Harvey the Rabbit treatment. It goes something like this: (hat tip to My edits below are in parentheses.

The Theory:

Cameron creates Ferris in his mind. Ferris is the total opposite of Cameron: he's fun, spontaneous and has a loving family and foxy girlfriend. At the beginning of the film, the imaginary Ferris convinces a bed-ridden Cameron to "borrow" his dad's Ferrari 250 GT California and cruise all over Chicago. Given Cameron's crushing social incompetence, it's likely that Sloane is fictional too and represents a girl that he has a crush on.

This theory explains the more fantastic elements of the film. For example, the whole city of Chicago rallies around the "sick" Ferris. This represents Cameron's miserable home life and how he yearns for friends and family who give a (darn). Or, perhaps Bueller is a guy Cameron knows but isn't friends with, and his fantasy is based on what he imagines life to be like for the "popular" kids at school--everything is easy and the world revolves around them.

Or maybe it's a secret metaphor for how Cameron wants to grow up to be Inspector Gadget.

"Gotta get home before my parents do!"

When Cameron accidentally trashes his father's Ferrari at the film's climax, he realizes that he needs to stick up to his father and take responsibility for his own life. At this point he "disposes" of Ferris and Sloane. Both of his fictional friends receive happy endings: Sloane is left pondering marrying Ferris, whereas Ferris safely returns home, where he can break the fourth wall for eternity.

Why does it make the film better?

It transforms Ferris Bueller into a Brat Pack version of Fight Club. Remember when Ferris keeps pestering Cameron to pick him up? Let's watch that scene again...

That kid is (messed) up. He needs a friend. A friend who is everything he is not, a friend who can liberate him from all of his self-imposed limitations. Somewhere, there's probably a rejected script for a sequel where "Bueller" convinces Cameron to climb up a clock tower with a rifle.

Here's the link:

Given this option it catapults FBDO into the realm of other freaky deaky (how much of that film really happened?) movies like Harvey the Rabbit, Donnie Darko, and Fight Club. Since it was a Summer movie and Summer is on it's way, my suggestion would be to watch it again. This time, go ahead and jump down the rabbit hole and into the twisted mind of Cameron Fry!

trailer for Karate Kid II

trailer for Ferris Bueller's Day Off

trailer for Inspector Gadget

clip from Harvey the Rabbit

trailer for Donnie Darko

trailer for Fight Club