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Groundhog Day
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG (Some Thematic Elements)

Running Time: 101 minutes

Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Screenplay by: Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis
Story by: Danny Rubin

Directed by: Harold Ramis

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $24.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Harold Ramis, The Weight Of Time Documentary, Filmographies, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround, Portuguese Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

Released: January 29th, 2002

 

 

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 really looks terrific. It starts out a bit dirty but cleans up pretty early on. Blemishes, blotches, scratches, pieces of dirt, noise, some shimmering and a murky picture is all there. However, it does get much better. The transfer comes to look incredibly sharp and bright (perhaps too bright) with well saturated colors, and only the occasional scratch and dirt mark here and there. Despite the start, I feel this is truly one of Columbia/Tristars best transfers in a bit. Sadly, I also feel the opening chapters ruined the score here. If the first few scenes were on par with the rest of the film, I would have given this transfer an extra half point. But alas, no.

 

"Groundhog Day" features a new Dolby Digital 5.1 English track that is superb. The original DVD only had Dolby Surround tracks (which are also on this DVD) which were incredibly flat and low compared to the new track. The 5.1 remix is quite good. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, while the dialogue and other sound elements retain a good balance so there is no overpowering between them. The sound effects and the strong score from George Fenton bring good surrounds and life to the mix. I didn't feel incredibly immersed like I was in the actual movie, but I felt it was close. The mix is well suited and balanced for the material, and does work fine. There are nice layers and a good atmosphere to it all. Fidelity is pretty strong too. However, toward the last half hour, I found that the audio got a bit lower in volume which sorta annoyed me. But overall, no complaints. You'll also find English Dolby Surround French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround and Portuguese Dolby Surround tracks plus English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles and English Closed Captions. Also, despite the packaging, there is NO DTS track (oh well).

 

Surely an improvment over the original release, "Groundhog Day" doesn't feature much, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up in quality. Probably most notable on this release is the Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Harold Ramis. Ramis delivers a funny and really strong audio commentary here, just like he's done in the past. There's a serious tone to it, but Ramis offers some funny stuff throughout the commentary (I now see how "Groundhog Day" is just like Gandhi). Ramis discusses production stories, and offers a great amount of praise for the cast and crew (especially for friend Murray). There's a lot to like about this track and Ramis offers insight on to the film itself and creating things within. Truly worth a listen.

There's also a new documentary for this DVD release, that being The Weight Of Time. Lasting a few minutes under a half hour, it has new interviews with Harold Ramis, Trevor Albert, Andie MacDowell, co-writer Danny Rubin and Stephen Tobolosky. This is a good watch that I wish was a bit longer, and Bill Murray chiming in would have been nice (but he can be pretty secluded). The origins of the project are discussed here, and how Rubin's original treatment and script was (it began in the middle). Ramis liked it a lot, so he worked with Rubin to create another draft. There's talk about some ideas that didn't make the cut, filming locations and some other things about making the film. You'll also find some original screen tests and outtakes (couldn't we have gotten those in a seperate section on this DVD and in full?) It's a good watch, but as far as being a documentary, it's nothing incredibly mindblowing or extensive.

Not much else... we have three Trailers: one for "Groundhog Day" and two other romantic comedies ("It Could Happen To You" and "Peggy Sue Got Married") plus Filmographies for Elliot, MacDowell, Ramis and Murray.

 

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. Columbia/Tristar has put together a nice package with a superb transfer, a great new audio mix and insightful extras, even though I wish there were more supplements. Still, this is a film worth owning, and considering you can get it at a nice price, it deserves to be in your collection.