#74) Groundhog Day (1993)
OR “Live. See Shadow. Repeat.”
Directed by Harold Ramis
Written by Ramis and Danny Rubin
Class of 2006
The Plot: Arrogant weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) comes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover its annual Groundhog Day celebration. After an unexpected blizzard strands him in town for the night, he wakes up to discover that he is reliving Groundhog Day again. Phil continues to experience the same day over and over, with varying results. Throughout his time loop, Phil starts to fall for his segment producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and begins to grow as a person. Let the theological speculation continue!
Why It Matters: The NFR calls it “a clever comedy with a philosophical edge to boot.” An essay by Steve Ginsberg gets philosophical as well and debates how the film will hold up 100 years from now. I don’t know how a movie about a groundhog will play to those DAMN DIRTY APES!
But Does It Really?: Oh yes. This is a film that just feels right on every level. You immediately buy everything this film has to offer (even its insurance policy!). A lot of that is Murray, giving perhaps his most underrated and surprisingly understated performance, but a lot of that is a simple yet memorable story by Danny Rubin, and Harold Ramis finding the perfect balance between the fantasy elements and a real-world grounding. Like many of the greats, it’s perfectly executed in a way that looks so damn easy.
Everybody Gets One: Special mention to Bill’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray, Chris “Cabin Boy” Elliott and (by virtue of archival “Jeopardy” footage) Alex Trebek.
Everybody Gets One – Bonus Round!: See that groom at the end that goes to Wrestlemania? That’s future two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon. I’m not kidding. Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait.
Wow, That’s Dated: Blue screens for TV weathermen rather than green screens. A non-digital alarm clock.
Take a Shot: Amazingly, they don’t say the phrase “Groundhog Day” in this film as often as I remember.
Seriously, Oscars?: While completely snubbed by the Academy, “Groundhog Day” did win the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay. Its only stateside accolade was a Saturn Award for Andie MacDowell’s performance.
- Before we dive into the film itself, can I just say how much I hate the original poster? I know it’s the easiest way to convey the film’s plot, but “Groundhog Day” just isn’t that type of comedy. Also there’s a TV spot for this film that tells you to bring the family. They really didn’t know how to market “Groundhog Day” in 1993.
- The opening music sounds a little like the theme from “8 ½”.
- Stephen Tobolowsky, man. Talk about leaving an impression.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Gobbler’s Knob!
- I appreciate that this film takes its time setting everything up. The first 20 minutes or so are pretty much just set-up.
- The neurologist had other advice for Phil; don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.
- Of course Nancy Taylor doesn’t remember going to high school with Phil. She’s 12 years younger than him!
- I always got the sense that Bill Murray wanted this film to be “Scrooged” with the kinks worked out. Both films are contemporary stories of redemption via the supernatural, but “Scrooged” relies too much on the effects and Murray has gone on record saying he wasn’t happy with the results.
- I love a lot of the lines in this film, but the best is Phil’s “Maybe [God is] not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”
- Why does Larry turn into such a creep towards the end of the film? He was just kinda goofy and easy-going for the rest of it.
- How long do I think Phil spent reliving Groundhog Day? About 100 minutes.
- I usually don’t mention film reviews on these posts, but Desson Howe wins the “Most Short-Sighted” award for writing in his Washington Post review, “‘Groundhog’ will never be designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress.” There’s one of these reviews for every classic film, but I have to mention this one specifically.
- My own theological conclusions on the film? Phil learns to live in the present. He spent so much of his life focused on getting a better job and not being stuck where he is that he never took the time to acknowledge and appreciate whatever is right in front of him. When he learns to accept the now, he becomes a better person.
- A Broadway musical based on the film that, despite a star (and knee) turn by Andy Karl, recently went home empty-handed at the Tony Awards.
- While definitely not the first film to feature the “reliving the same day” trope, “Groundhog Day” definitely helped its surge in popularity.
- The phrase “Groundhog Day” as a reference to frequent repetition gets a lot of mileage in our government, specifically the military.
- The film of course helped popularize Groundhog Day the holiday, as well as the town of Punxsutawney (even though the movie wasn’t actually filmed there).
Listen to This: How has “I Got You Babe” not made it into the National Recording Registry yet? It’s the perfect song choice for this film, as well as Sonny & Cher’s signature tune. Make it happen, people!