by Ken B.
I’ve found no “holiday” more useless than Groundhog Day. I suppose it’s supposed to be fun and lighthearted, but I think it’s really just dumb. That being said, Groundhog Day the movie is far from dumb, it’s rather excellent. It’s a clever, funny movie, and does make one wonder what it would be like to relive the same day over… and over… and over again.
The wonderful Bill Murray portrays Phil Connors, a conceited TV weatherman who is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day ceremony in Punxsutawney, PA. He hates this job with a passion, and when a blizzard snows him in, he finds himself oddly reliving February 2 over and over again. The routine’s the same. 6:00 A.M. – The clock radio turns on, playing the Sonny and Cher song “I Got You Babe”. Banter between the hosts of the early morning radio show begins, which Phil begins to recite word for word. Everything becomes uniform, and rather irritating. But for Phil, he soon realizes he could have a bit of fun with this. He can’t die, and any mayhem he causes will be reset at 6:00. This, on its own, is a concept that could be either entertaining or troublesome. Thankfully, the material isn’t as repetitive as the setup.
Murray, a comedy veteran, delivers a brilliant dry performance here, especially working well when occasionally presented with the over-the-top comedic showing from Ned, the former classmate and insurance salesman (STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY). The supporting cast, featuring Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, and Maria Geraghty, is solid as well, making the acting here a major positive.
Co-written and directed by Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters), Groundhog Day is some kind of oddball comedy classic. There’s a certain poignancy to its themes, but there’s no shortage of laughs watching the hundreds of different outcomes a day can have if you’re given enough opportunities to live it out. Virtually every different attitude one could take to living the same day over and over again is explored, but there is that unexplained elephant in the room (which, of course, is “How did the time warp begin in the first place – we know how it played out, but…”), and perhaps that was intentional. It doesn’t really seriously detract from the experience.
The thing is, if you’re not interested in Groundhog Day, you probably never will be. It’s the kind of movie that has seeped endlessly into modern culture, and those who can’t get into it are just not pro-this type of comedy.
Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day is an instantly recommendable movie. With great comedy, strong messages, and a solid cast, this is one not to miss, especially around the titular “holiday”.