Teen; Comedy; Coming of Age Story
Ferris Bueller's Day Off ticks all the teen genre boxes: Angst? Check. Rebellion and clashes with authority? Check and check. Alienation? You betcha. With Ferris and Sloane, we even have a glimpse at "first love." Oh, and the three leads are all teens, so there's that, too.
So this is definitely a teen movie, but it's worth nothing that it also twists some of the conventions of the genre. For example, in most teen movies, the teens' high school is the epicenter of their, and the movie's, universe; it's home base for hijinks. Not for Ferris and Cameron, though. They blow it off entirely. Sloane's only at Shermer High for a minute before they bust her out, and we never actually catch Jeanie attending classes before she bails, too.
Ferris and his friends also break the clique code that's central to many movies in the teen genre. We're talking about well-worn stereotypes like jocks and cheerleaders, band geeks, stoners. You're familiar with them all, and Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane don't fit neatly into any of these teen genre social groups. The closest we get to a genre conformist is Jeanie, who's a bit of a loner, a bit of a diva, and, based on her take down of Rooney, a natural martial artist.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off exemplifies the comedy genre through its subversive juxtaposition of urban tourism and psychological escapism in order to exemplify the adolescent male's nascent mistrust in—we're just kidding, Shmooper. Ferris Bueller's Day off exemplifies the comedy genre because it's straight-up funny.
While the comedy genre can be splintered off into scores of subgenres—everything from romantic to gross-out—your classic comedy film just wants to make you laugh by pointing out the truth about the world around you, usually by exaggerating it somehow. Ferris's entire existence is essentially an example of this: He's a heightened version of the popular kid. He doesn't just have good luck; he has luck that severely stretches the bounds of believability and leads to laughs.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off also indulges in some slapstick humor, too. "Like all good cartoon heavies," writes Nina Darnton in her New York Times review of the film, "Ed Rooney gets scratched, bitten, attacked by ferocious dogs and covered with mud while pursuing his weaker, but craftier, prey, and emerges each time bruised but undaunted, thinking up some new (and futile) plan." This cartoonish behavior is just another means of comedic heightening—and one with broad appeal, to boot. "He may keep trying," Darnton explains, "but the audience knows he can't catch Ferris Bueller any more than the coyote can catch the Road Runner."
Coming of Age Story
Teen movies and coming of age stories go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like cookies and milk. Like donuts and barbecue sauce. (C'mon—like we're the only ones who do that.) They pair so nicely because coming of age stories are all about watching the protagonist grow from a kid into an adult.
Sometimes coming of age stories depict psychological growth; sometimes they get all philosophical or moral instead. Regardless, since they're all about ch-ch-changes, movies in this genre are usually more focused on dialogue and emotions than they are action. That's how we learn about Cameron's personal development, for example. He doesn't fight an anxiety dragon, or roundhouse kick his inner demons in the face—although how cool would that be?—he experiences a series of emotions and talks things out.