Recut trailers are a YouTube staple. There are some — The Shining as an inspiring, James-Brooks-y family tale of uplift, Mary Poppins as a horror film — that turn films on their heads and, in the process, brilliantly expose the cliches of the modern movie trailer. (The mere fact that the one for the film Shining includes Peter Gabriel's ubiquitous "Solsbury Hill" means that someone watched a lot of inspirational pop culture in the '80s and '90s.)
There's a new one kicking around for the '80s John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
What makes this trailer so interesting, though, is that it doesn't really turn Ferris on its head. What it does is shift the focus away from the slapstick elements that would have been more easily marketed in 1986 when the film was released. But this trailer is no more misleading than the trailers the movie really had.
If you know the movie, you know that just as the recut trailer gives short shrift to the film's goofball comedy, this (real) trailer gives very short shrift to the contemplative nature of the story — to the genuine melancholy that makes it interesting. Cameron Frye, after all, is flirting with genuine depression, and certainly with a horribly damaged relationship with his father that the film doesn't really promise is close to resolution. Ferris' solution to his problems is never presented as anything other than temporary: something that will give him a little courage and enough desire to live that he'll start chipping away at his many, many problems.
That's why I've always admired the story of Cameron and the car. In the end, Cameron is left to an uncertain future when he confronts his father. Cameron chooses to take responsibility and chooses to confront his dad, even though it's going to be difficult and scary. The movie may feature Abe Froman, the Sausage King Of Chicago, but it's not all one big goof.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is beloved by those who love it precisely because it's not just "one man's struggle to take it easy." It's very sad in places. And many of the moments that play in the recut trailer as sad and thoughtful and dreamy are exactly that way in the film. There's a lot of loneliness in this story, and a lot of longing, and a lot of shifting back and forth between feeling like nearly an adult and feeling like a little kid. And when Ferris, Sloane and Cameron tip their heads against the glass to look down, the feeling is just as the recut trailer suggests: sad and quiet, with all three a little overwhelmed by looking down at the world.
If Ferris Bueller's Day Off were being re-released in theaters, while you'd undoubtedly have to include the principal and the "Twist And Shout" number, much of this would be a decent way to tell people what they're going to see. Unlike the recut trailers that bounce movies upside-down, this one — while it contains all the indie cliches that it checks off its list — actually sort of finds the heart of the original film. The original wasn't all this soulful, of course, and there's a lot of silliness that's left out. But it was no more accurate in 1986 to suggest it was all silliness.