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Rating: PG (Some Thematic Elements)
Running Time: 101 minutes
Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Screenplay by: Danny Rubin and
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Retail Price: $24.95
Features: Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections
Released: January 20th, 1998
Phil Connors (Bill Murray) isn't looking forward to covering the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and his camerman Larry (Chris Elliott). Phil is a very cynical, and somewhat depressing guy who obviously isn't quite happy with his life and doesn't appreciate his job or life as she should. After spending Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney and being quite obnoxious, Phil is ready to get out. But an unexpected blizzard traps Phil and crew in the pretty eccentric small town. Phil is forced to stay overnight and when he wakes up the next morning at six, he comes to find that it's the same exact day and he's the only one who realizes it. Phil is trapped in Groundhog Day and has to relive the day over and over again. At first, Phil is confused. But then Phil makes changes and takes what he's learned from each and every Groundhog Day to finally create the perfect Groudhog Day.
Personally, I think "Groundhog Day" is not only one of the best comedies of the 1990s, but also one of the best comedies of all time. For you see, despite all the funny moments the film, it's incredibly orignal and a lot deeper than most people realize. The script from Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis (from a story by Rubin) is pure genius. Like I said, it's an amazing concept that really works. I'm sure we've all had days we wish we could live over and over again, or go back into the past and do things differently (though I believe if you had the chance, you'd keep things the same). And I'm sure we wish that some days we never had to relive over and over again. But for Phil Connors, it's not that Groundhog Day is a terrible day, it's just a day that he wants to get over with. It's simply nothing special to him.
But it does become special to him. As each and every Groundhog Day passes, he gains more and more out of it. Phil takes knowledge he gains from the previous day and then uses it to his advantage. But it's not the razor-sharp dialogue, the great pacing, how well thought out the film is or the funny moments that make "Groundhog Day" what it is. What makes this film so genius is the subtext within, something I think some people don't exactly pick up on when watching the film. There is a lot of symbolism and parallels throughout the movie, believe it or not.
Like what you may ask? Phil Connors is basically all of that throughout the whole movie. Comparing the groundhog and Phil may seem insane, but they're more alike than you may think. A groundhog can show two different sides: his shadow and nothing at all. When the groundhog sees his/her shadow, there are still six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog does not, then spring is upon us all. Phil himself keeps seeing his "shadow" and keeps doing what he does, but then he changes and does things differently. Yes, there is a real Punxsutawney Phil and the name of our main character is Phil. I don't think that's a coinsidence. Another comparison applies to Phil as far as his job. Phil is a weatherman and the weather is something that can change in an instant and varies throughout the year. So, Phil does change, like the weather, with each Groundhog Day he wakes up in.
Despite the concept, the strong story and the meanings, the theme of "Groundhog Day" cannot be denied. It's about a man who does find redemption within himself by repeating each and every day over and over again. Like I said earlier, Phil is a man who is not quite happy with himself and always uses sarcasm to belittle those around him. But Phil uses his new knowledge of those around him and the events of the day to his benefit, and he becomes a better person for it. He becomes a lot more generous, a lot nicer and in the end, becomes a much more decent human being. Phil enacts changes within himself. (Possible spoiler alert) And finally, when Phil changes his outlook and himself, he can leave Groundhog Day and go on to February 3rd.
"Groundhog Day" could be an easy movie to screw up as far as everything goes. But Harold Ramis, truly a comedy genius, does justice to the script he co-wrote and takes the film above and beyond. Ramis paces the film perfectly. All the glimpses we get from each day, what we learn from the characters and how it's all played out is simply flawless. Editing can also be a pain in the ass, and I bet during post production as far as timing and the look of things, I bet it was. And I bet shooting scenes that have to be more or less exact over and over again got annoying too. But all the effort and all the style was worth it, not to mention the movie doesn't keep repeating itself and gets stuck. It keeps going and moves at a swift pace.
Still, the performances here are solid gold. Arguably, this is Bill Murray's best comedic performance of all time. Working with long time friend and collaborator Ramis, Murray is pitch perfect and truly captures what Phil Connors all about. All the cynical attitudes he has and all the heart he doesn't realize. Just his mannerisms and wit, not to mention his charm. It's all wonderful and all Murray. It's actually a pretty complex role when you think about it, and I do think Murray wasn't really recognized for his performance. Be it that the film was released really early in 1993, but "Groundhog Day" showcases Murray's talents. He deserved an Oscar® nod in my book, or at least a Golden Globe nod. Other performances from Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott are just as good, while the townsfolk also light this film up. If you never seen "Groundhog Day," you don't know what you're missing. It's truly one of the greatest comedies of all time.
"Groundhog Day" features a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks pretty good and on the other side of the disc is a full frame version in the aspect ratio of (you guessed it) 1.33:1. The disc features decent color saturation and looks pretty good, but isn't incredibly sharp. There's also some noise and shimmering to be found here and there, as well as your usual scratches, blemishes, blotches and pieces of dirt. Detail is also pretty good and blacks are rather solid. Not a revolutionary transfer, but it's fine.
Dolby Surround tracks all around... English, French and Spanish. They felt more like cheap stereo to me, actually. I found them pretty low in volume and flat. I didn't get much sense of activity in them. More or less, they needed more cleaning up so there wouldn't be a sense of blandness to them. What a shame. There's not much else to say except given the range of material and how rich this could have been, this is very disappointing. English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles and English Closed Captions are here if you need them.
Not much. Decent Production Notes and the Theatrical Trailer.
Simply put, "Groundhog Day" is a great concept with great messages. It works entirely on so many different foundations. The performances are spectacular, the direction from Ramis is flawless and the script is so funny, sly and true. This DVD is decent, but given time, I'm sure there will be a more superior special edition which you may want to hold out for. But if you need your "Groundhog" fix, this is not a bad alternative.