Shea Serrano is a Mexican-American New York Times bestselling author of two books, and his third book is out now. Titled Movies (And Other Things), the book answers questions like “Which race was white savior-ed best by Kevin Costner?” and “Were the Jurassic Park raptors just misunderstood?”
The bonus chapter below, which features art by Arturo Torres, was cut from the book because there wasn’t enough room. Read on to learn if Ferris Bueller or Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez had the better run, and check out this link for more information on Serrano and to order his latest book.
It’s easiest if this chapter’s prompt—Who had the better run, Ferris Bueller or Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez?—is presented in four pieces to start. So:
The first piece: A more expected use of the word “run” here might be a metaphoric one, as in “a specific stretch of time,” as in, “Omar Epps had an impressive run from 1992 to 1995” (Juice in 1992, The Program in 1993, Major League II in 1994, and Higher Learning in 1995). But that’s not this. This, rather, is a literal use of the word “run,” as in a real, actual run, as in running, as in your legs are moving faster than when you’re walking, as in, “Oh my God! Aliens! Run!” That kind of run.
The second piece: Ferris Bueller is the star character of 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, no question the best ever movie about a high school kid nearly failing his senior year on a technicality. (The movie is actually about a high school senior who decides to pretend he’s sick so he can have a day off. He’d cut school enough times, though, that if he got caught cutting school again he was going to be held back another year. Matthew Broderick played Ferris, and he did so with a nuclear amount of charm. Even today, more than thirty years later, his turn as Ferris remains the most iconic Guy in a High School Movie performance of all.)
The third piece: Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez is one of the star characters of 1993’s The Sandlot, no question the best ever movie about a group of middle school kids who inadvertently disturb a blind man’s afternoon one summer. (The movie is actually about a group of middle school kids who play baseball in a field that sits directly behind a house that belongs to an old blind man named Mr. Mertle. One day, Smalls hits a ball signed by Babe Ruth over Mr. Mertle’s fence. The kids are all scared to get it because there’s a big dog who lives there. The kids refer to the dog as “the Beast,” and it’s rumored that the Beast has eaten children before when they wandered into his space. The kids spend the second half of the movie trying to figure out how to get the ball back.)
The fourth piece: Both Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Sandlot end with big, climactic, unforgettable scenes where each of the aforementioned characters have to outrun something. (More on this in a moment.)
So that’s why we’re here, and how we’re here.
Separate of the Running Scenes, Six Other Ways That Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Sandlot Are Similar
1. Both movies have a cooler kid teaching a less cool kid to be a better version of himself. Ferris with Cameron, Benny with Smalls.
2. Both movies have a scene where a person fakes like he’s drowning. Cameron fakes like he’s drowning after he and Ferris and Sloane realize that the valet driver who was supposed to park Cameron’s father’s Ferrari had actually taken it out for a joyride, and Squints fakes like he’s drowning as part of his plot to sexually assault Wendy Peffercorn.
3. Both movies have fireworks. There are actual fireworks in The Sandlot, and the fireworks in Ferris Bueller are when Ferris kisses Sloane in the Art Institute of Chicago. (This one, I will admit, is a stretch.)
4. Both movies have a dog that someone (or multiple someones) is scared of. Don’t forget about the rottweiler in Ferris Bueller that attacks Mr. Rooney.
5. Both movies feature baseball. Don’t forget about the trip to Wrigley Field that Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane take in Ferris Bueller.
6. Both movies feature Chicago. The entirety of Ferris Bueller (obviously) takes place in Chicago, and Smalls’s stepfather takes a business trip to Chicago. (This is when Smalls swipes the Babe Ruth ball from his stepfather’s study.)
Can I tell you something that is very dumb, and it’s something I thought a lot about while I was researching for this chapter? Ferris Bueller and The Sandlot are two of my favorite movies. I have seen them many times stretched out over literal decades. They are sweet movies and interesting movies and well-done movies, yes, but most of all I enjoy the spirit baked into them, and I enjoy the wish fulfillment angle each of them carries; it was just always so much fun to me as a kid to imagine myself being as athletically gifted and unflappable as Benny or as effortlessly cool and magnetic as Ferris. Even rewatching them now as an adult and husband and father, I can feel myself being pulled in by each character’s gravity.
But something else happened during these most recent rewatches, and I wasn’t expecting it (even though I should have been): other parts of the movies—parts I’d missed even through countless viewings of each—jumped out at me. And at first I was uncertain why, but after thinking on it for a few moments I realized it was because my optics had changed.
Much as I’d like to, I can’t watch Ferris Bueller or The Sandlot anymore as a middle school kid or high school kid (or even college kid), because I am no longer a middle school kid or a high school kid (or even a college kid). I can only watch them now as a very lame adult (which is what I am). As such, I found myself sympathizing with lame adult-related things.
To wit, there’s a part in The Sandlot where Bill, Smalls’s stepfather, is trying to get some office work done at home but he can’t because he keeps being interrupted by Smalls, and I knew (and know) the exact feeling he has in his chest when Smalls pressures him into taking time away from it to play catch for a little bit. And there’s a part in Ferris Bueller where Mr. Rooney is trying to peek into a window on the side of the Bueller home. It should’ve been an easy thing, but it becomes a total hassle because a leaky hose bib has caused the ground underneath the window to be all mushy and muddy and wet, and the one thing I know from owning a home now is that mushy and muddy and wet ground at your foundation for an extended amount of time is a bad news situation.
Worrying about the structural integrity of a home in a movie is the easiest way to know that you are, as mentioned, a lame adult. I’m sure of it.
The most efficient (and satisfying) way to answer this chapter’s prompt is to break the Ferris run and the Benny run up into six categories. Then we can take those six categories, figure out who wins each, tally up the scores for a total, and same, as we did with the John Wick chapter: that’s how we know who had the better run.
CATEGORY 1: WHY ARE THEY RUNNING?
Benny is running from The Beast, a hyperintelligent, assumed-to-be hyperaggressive dog. As was mentioned earlier, one of his friends knocked a baseball signed by Babe Ruth into The Beast’s yard, and so Benny hopped the gate, ran up on the dog, snatched the baseball, and broke off out the yard. The Beast, unimpressed, busted free from his chain and hopped the gate after Benny. It started chasing Benny. That’s why Benny was running.
Ferris is running because he’s trying to beat his sister and his parents home. His sister, Jeanie, hates him. She’s driving home with her mom in the passenger seat. She sees Ferris and he sees her. She knows that if she can get home before he can, then his mom will see that Ferris is gone and was lying about being sick. Ferris knows that too, and so that’s why he’s running: he doesn’t want to get caught in a lie.
Winner: Benny wins this category because his stakes are way, way higher. If Ferris gets caught, then he’s probably just going to get grounded. If Benny gets caught, then (a) he and his friends lose the Babe Ruth ball, which alone is cataclysmic, but also (b) he could potentially get eaten alive in front of his friends, which, I don’t know if you know anything or not about getting eaten alive by an animal, but it’s basically the worst thing that can happen to you.
Score: 1-0, Benny
CATEGORY 2: WAS THERE ANY SORT OF PREPARATION FOR THE RUN THAT TOOK PLACE?
None for Ferris. He just looked at his girlfriend’s watch, saw it was time to go, and then left. Benny, however, received a vision. He was literally visited by the ghost of Babe Ruth, who told Benny that he already knew the only way he was getting the ball back was to jump the fence and grab it himself. The universe was pushing Benny toward greatness. That counts as a metaphysical preparation. Also, and this is maybe even more important, he showed up to the field the next day for the run with a pair or new shoes and a customized baseball jersey with his own name on the back. That’s literal preparation, too.
Score: 2-0, Benny
CATEGORY 3: WHO LOOKS MORE HANDSOME RUNNING?
They’re both generally handsome runners, which is pretty impressive because it’s hard to look handsome while you’re running. (I don’t look handsome when I run. I look like I’m stuck somewhere between trying not to cry and trying to keep all of my intestines from falling out of my butthole.) Ferris’s run, though—there are just far fewer instances where he looks fearful or uncomfortable. I mean, there’s legit a part during the run where he takes a break just to introduce himself to two women who are out sunbathing in bikinis. Benny is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FEAR for the entirety of his run, and I know that’s only because he was under the impression that if he was caught then he was going to be eaten by a killer dog, but still. He makes enough unfortunate grimaces that Ferris is able to slide in here and steal the win.
Score: 2-1, Benny
CATEGORY 4: HOW FAR DID THEY HAVE TO RUN?
It’s hard to say the distance exactly. However, both were in a dead sprint for almost all of their runs. And if we assume their speeds are generally equal (which I think is fair because, sure, Ferris was several years older than Benny, but Benny was very clearly an exceptional athlete and I don’t figure he’d have had much trouble keeping up with Ferris), then whoever ran the longest is the person who ran the farthest.
Winner: Benny was on the go for just under five minutes during his run. Ferris was on the go for just under three and a half minutes for his. Benny wins.
Score: 3-1, Benny
CATEGORY 5: WHAT OBSTACLES DID THEY ENCOUNTER WHILE RUNNING?
Ferris’s obstacles were: (1) a speeding car (driven by his sister); (2) a bush; (3) another bush; (4) yet another bush; (5) a man barbecuing; (6) two women sunbathing; (7) another car (this one driven by his father); (8) an occupied home; (9) a fourth bush; (10) a tree trunk; (11) a slide; and (12) a trampoline that he uses to jump over (13) a very big hedge.
Benny’s obstacles here: (1) a speeding dog (driven by the devil); (2) a tall fence;
(3) a kid on a bike; (4) a car; (5) a cinder block gate; (6) a movie screen; (7) a bunch of food on a table; (8) a giant cake; and (9) that first tall fence again.
Winner: Ferris has thirteen obstacles. Benny had nine. Ferris wins.
Score: 3-2, Benny
CATEGORY 6: WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE MOMENT FROM EACH RUN?
Running from a dog is a reflexive activity because a dog chasing you is a terrifying thing. You don’t have to think too much about it. Your body just does it. So the most impressive moment for Benny on his run, then, is the way it starts.
Benny has hopped the gate and is in the backyard and the Beast hears him and comes wandering out of his doghouse. And so Benny and the Beast are there, twenty or so feet apart, finally facing off. the Beast spits the ball out onto the ground daring Benny to come get it. And Benny’s looking at the ball and at the Beast and at the ball again, all the way terrified and all the way certain he’s one mistake away from having his flesh chewed off his bones while his friends watch. And Benny just fucking books it straight toward him, sprinting as fast as he can at the Beast.
And I’d like to point out here: this isn’t a Maltese that Benny’s running up on. The Beast is an English mastiff, and English mastiffs get upward of 230 pounds, ten of which are teeth and claws. That’s the real-life manifestation of death looking at Benny. And Benny works up the strength and courage to charge toward him to get the ball. Imagine running toward a lion. Or toward a bear. Or toward a shark. Or any other animal that could snap your femurs in two just for fun. That’s what Benny did. That was Benny’s most impressive moment from his run.
Ferris’s most impressive moment happens right at the very end of his run. He’s in a neighbor’s yard just mere feet away from making it home safely, but there’s a giant, impenetrable hedge blocking him from getting there. So he runs up a slide, jumps off it, lands on a large trampoline, and bounces himself clean over the hedge.
But him just getting over the hedge isn’t the most impressive part. I mean, sure, that part took no small amount of bravery (he went into it knowing he was going to spring himself some twelve or so feet into the air, and falling twelve or so feet to the ground is scary). But the most impressive part is that there was a little girl already out there bouncing on the trampoline, and so he had to time his own bounce exactly right so that he was hitting the trampoline while she was in the air, because if he hit the trampoline after jumping onto it from the slide at the same time that she was hitting the trampoline from her own bounce . . . well, then anyone who’s ever been on a trampoline with someone else knows that she would’ve gotten popcorned right the fuck off the trampoline and into the yard.
Based on his momentum and her tiny body mass, he’d have probably shot her a good fifteen feet into the air. She’d have for sure broken an arm or a leg (or neck or spine, depending on how she landed) when she hit the ground. I think Ferris knew it, too. I think he calculated all of that as he was running up the slide. That’s very impressive. That’s his most impressive moment from his run.
Winner: This one is the closest of all the categories. On the one hand, you’ve got Benny convincing himself to charge headfirst at a dog rumored to have killed childrenn, which is elite level bravery. And on the other hand, you’ve got Ferris calculating a genius-level mathematical theorem while navigating what amounts to an American Ninja Warrior course run. So it’s close. Super close. Super duper close. But Benny sprinting toward potential death (which is way more heroic than sprinting away from death) is just too much for Ferris to overcome. Benny wins this category. And the overall contest.
Final Score: 4-2, Benny
Final Verdict: Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez had a better run than Ferris Bueller.
Excerpted from Movies (And Other Things) by Shea Serrano. Copyright © 2019. Available from Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.