1993 - PG - 101 Mins.
|Director: Harold Ramis|
|Producer: Harold Ramis|
|Written By: Harold Ramis & Danny Rubin|
|Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Brian Doyle Murray, Chris Elliot, Stephen Tobolowsky |
|Review by: John Ulmer
Everybody would probably like to re-live one day of his or her life. Everyone makes a mistake or two that they'd like to fix. But what if you had to live the same day over again, and again, and again, and again...?
Don't leave me here in the snow, guys! Come on, is this what I get for making
Phil Connors goes through this strange cycle of life in "Groundhog Day," an undeniably strong comedy that features a great script and cast. It's like a Frank Capra story with sarcasm. And it works perfectly.
Bill Murray plays Connors with all the air of a frustrated cynical everyman who is fed up with his job and life. Phil is a weatherman for a local news station, and every year he goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the Punxsutawney Phil event: commonly recognized as Groundhog Day. You know how it goes. The groundhog comes out on February 2nd. If it sees its shadow, it's six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't, it's spring.
Well, the only problem about going to this event every year for Phil is that he hates it. He hates the cheery people. The little town. The weather. The event. The story. Everything. He hates it. He is a lonely, desolate, forsaken soul. With a great cynical side.
Andie McDowell plays a new manager--err, womanager--who goes with Phil to the event, along with Chris Elliot, the cameraman. Phil reports, they tape it, it's a done deal. The end. Phil goes back home. It happens every year, and this year should be no exception.
Because this year isn't like most years. Due to severe weather, the roads have all been closed, leaving only one option: Stay in Punxsutawney until the storm blows over. So, Phil heads back to his cheery hotel, and tucks in for a dreaded nap. But when he wakes the next morning, something odd happens. The day is the exact same day as before. It is Groundhog Day.
Waking up to the same Sonny and Cher song as the morning before, Phil panics as he finds everything exactly the same, just as it was the day before. He knows everything that is going to happen. He shrugs it off as a weird case of deja vu and heads back to sleep. But when he wakes up, alas! The day is...yesterday--again. Well, technically.
So Phil comes to terms with the fact that there is now way out of this small little town. He tries everything. He steps in front of a moving car. He electrocutes himself. He jumps off a building. All to no avail. Oh, he dies, all right. But the next day he's back and it's Groundhog Day again.
Part of what makes "Groundhog Day" so excellent is the story. The characters and actors alone are great enough to recommend this movie, but the truth is, I cannot think of a better story to throw someone like Bill Murray into. He uses his smart-alecky ways to a new extreme. His character is a bit like Scrooge from the tale "A Christmas Story," which is ironic, because Murray was in a parody on Scrooge's tale called "Scrooged."
But regardless, Bill Murray is perfect as the irreverent and cynical Phil. Everything he does he carries out with a dumb, "I'm-smarter-than-you" face. He considers himself better than everyone else. He thinks he is smart by skipping the big Holiday ordeal. It is all so stupid to him. But, as this story teaches us, having an attitude like that can get you in big trouble.
Harold Ramis, director of "Analyze This" and Murray's pal in Ivan Reitman's "Stripes," directed "Groundhog Day." Bill and he are old buddies, and it sure shows. I bet they had a great time making this movie. But what is good about it is that while making a fun movie they didn't forget to come up with an interesting and audience-catching tale.
Another thing that is great about "Groundhog Day" is that Phil Connors does what we would do. For example: When he finds out he has this ability to repeat the same day over and over, he does things the average person would do. The human weakness. Too many comedies with the same formula don't try to exploit this human weakness, but "Groundhog Day" does. We see Phil memorize the steps to successfully robbing an armored truck filled with cash. But the reason he can go to bed with a clear conscience is because he knows the next day that everything will be back to normal again. He will never have robbed the truck; never have bought a Ferrari, etc. Phil does what WE would do, and that is one importance aspect of "Groundhog Day." I would never rob an armored truck, but if I was stuck living the same day over and over, it would do no harm to take the cash--it would be back in the truck in the morning! So, I might do that. (Although my conscience would still get in the way.)
There was a little comedy a few years ago that starred John Candy. The movie was named, "Delirious," and it was about a soap opera writer who bumped his head and woke up trapped inside his own written world. And everything he would write on his typewriter came true.
I was reminded of that film while watching "Groundhog Day," which is undeniably a stronger comedy. While the movie "Delirous" was good, and pretty interesting, there were so many things Candy could have done with the ability to create and control everything, and he didn't do them. I think that's where "Groundhog Day" steps in, filling in the blanks. There's nothing I love more than watching a comedy where the main character divulges into the human nature.
In other words, I love watching characters on-screen giving in to the same human weaknesses that we all exhibit.
And that's exactly what Phil does in "Groundhog Day." And that is why, among other reasons, it is one of my favorite films.