Directed by Harold Ramis |
Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is an aging, jaded TV weatherman who is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the 4th year in a row. Accompanying him on the out-of-town assignment is his overly cheerful producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and smart-ass cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot). The assignment causes Phil to begin to question where his career and life are headed. Feeling his talents are undervalued and unappreciated, Phil blames his lack of opportunities on others.
Arriving the night before the Groundhog Day ritual, Phil checks into a local bed and breakfast. The day of the festival goes as planned until the trio tries to leave town, and are caught in a blizzard. Ironically enough, one that Phil had earlier predicted would bypass the region. Forced to spend another night in Punxsutawney, Phil wakes the next day to a strange turn of events. From the banter of the radio deejays to comments made by fellow hotel guests all seem strangely familiar. Phil suddenly realizes that this sense of deja vu is real and he is reliving the same day over again. Caught off guard, he manages to stumble through the day, hoping everything will return to normal the next day. Apparently a higher power has other plans as Phil is forced to relive the same day over and over again.
Director Harold Ramis knows comedy. Having practiced the craft as an actor (Stripes, Ghostbusters, and SCTV), writer ( Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, and Ghostbusters) and director (Analyze This, Multiplicity, Club Paradise, National Lampoon's Vacation and Caddyshack) Ramis, has demonstrated he knows that a successful comedy requires equal parts writing, acting and directing. Given his track record and the fact that many of the above projects also involve Bill Murray as an actor (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and Meatballs) it comes as no surprise that Groundhog Day is as fun as it is. Ramis, successfully manages to keep the story moving while at the same time taking time to explore the various facets of the experience and the nature of time.
One of the few flaws with this movie, in my opinion, is the way in which it is marketed. Firstly it is often referred to as a romantic comedy. Granted there is a subplot involving Bill Murray's character falling for Andie MacDowell , but its hardly at the core of the story.(How anyone could fall for Andie MacDowell is beyond me, but more on that later). The second way in which this movie seems to be mis-advertised is the tag-line and description that Murray is experiencing the worst day of his life over and over again. Okay, I doubt he would call it one of his best, but when taken as a whole, I think the day would be considered pretty average for Phil and for most of us in general. Focusing on this aspect of the movie seems to imply that its a cruel punishment that Phil Connors must overcome a la Prometheus.
The real story here is about a man who's given up on life, although it would appear life hasn't given up on him. Each rerun of the same day allows Phil to explore a different scenario and by a process of elimination he begins to discover what's important in life and how precious time can be.
In one of the initial repeats of the day Phil asks the question "What if there were no tomorrow?". A helpful local responds "No consequences!" and with that Phil embarks on a wild night of reckless abandon, knowing that the next morning things will be undone. The entertainment value of this soon wears off as Phil realizes that life is not just about the here and now, but about the future and the past.
In another exchange with a local Phil has befriended in an attempt to entertain himself, he asks the question"What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was the same and nothing you did mattered?". A depressed and drunken local responds "That about sums it up for me." In that one seemingly innocent exchange, the point is driven home that life is what we make of it, and that we can waste time by becoming stuck in our routine. Phil, however takes a little longer to wise up.
The comic writing and timing in this movie is incredible. At one point the days events are played out increasingly faster. Instead of showing Phil's entire day, we simply see the same scene replayed in rapid succession showing the different outcomes as Phil tries new tactics to achieve his goal of the moment. These scenes often brief, yet managed to pack a lot of comedy and wit into them while exploring the theme of time travel.
While the laughs are plentiful, the movie is not without its more touching and poignant moments. In one set of sequences Phil tries desperately to save the life of a homeless man he ignored on his first day in Punxsutawney. Eventually, Phil is forced to accept the fact that he can't change the outcome and must be content to change of fix things within his grasp. An significant lesson for Phil who has blamed others on the direction of his career and life in general.
Ultimately Phil is redeemed in the end, having turned his life around and come to terms with what is important in life. The spell is broken and Phil is released from his time warp.
Groundhog Day is a fun film, that manages to surprise and enlighten at every turn. Before I leave you though, I should add one word of caution about Andie MacDowell and her acting ability (or lack thereof).
As I mentioned previously there is subplot about Bill Murray's character falling hopelessly in love with his producer played by Andie MacDowell. I found it easier to believe that Bill Murray could be stuck in time, rather believing that he could be stuck on Andie MacDowell. If you haven't had the misfortune of watching Andie MacDowell on the big screen before consider yourself lucky. For starters she possesses one of the most annoying voices anywhere. Point of fact, they had Glen Close over dub her lines in Greystoke the Legend of Tarzan. I kid you not! As if that wasn't enough her acting style is so wooden its a miracle she finds work at all.
Now if you think I have a personal axe to grind, I'm not alone in this belief. In my defence allow me to call as my first witness, Scott Glazer. Scott Glazer who likes to tell it like it is, has summed up his criticisms of all things insipidly evil on his web site Scott's Page Of Evil*. In addition to exposing the evils of author Piers Anthony, Organized Religion and the Spin Doctors, one of his targets is none other than Andie MacDowell herself.
*Unfortunately Scott's Page of Evil seems to have dissipated into the cyber-ether without a trace since I first wrote this review. You can visit Scott's Page of Evil through the miracle of the internet's very own THE WAYBACK MACHINE at this LINK. If it should ever be reincarinated please let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
©1999 - A. Taylor
Review Updated: 2005-01-16
Review Updated: 2005-01-16
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