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Groundhog Day (1993)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/27/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/23/2009

As with so many other things in life, (mainstream) film criticism is controlled by older white males. Therefore, when film critics talk about "classic films", they are usually talking about movies from the first half of the 20th century. If you're lucky, you'll something from the 70s and maybe the 80s. However, the definition of "classic" for my generation is much different. For me, film history starts in 1975 (although I do like a handful of older movies) and goes from there. For this site, I'm typically reviewing newer films (some of which may be future classics), so it's nice to have a chance to discuss a movie which many of my peers consider to be a classic, Groundhog Day.

Bill Murray stars in Groundhog Day as Pittsburgh TV weatherman Phil Connors. Phil is pompous and conceited and generally annoys those around him. He doesn't make a good first impression on his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) when she shows enthusiasm for the annual report on Groundhog Day. Phil, Rita, and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the annual Groundhog Day festival. Phil spends the night in his room, awakens, and goes to the festival. He covers the story and he, Rita, and Larry head back to Pittsburgh. However, due to a blizzard (which Phil had predicted would miss the area), they are forced to return to Punxsutawney, much to Phil's dismay. Phil goes to bed that night in his hotel room and awakens the next morning to find that it is Groundhog Day again. He thinks that he's going crazy and seeks medical attention. He then awakens again to find that it is Groundhog Day. Every day is Groundhog Day and Phil can't find a way out of the cycle. And as he only has a few short hours before things start over again, he can't convince anyone that what is happening to him is real. What can he do to stop this?

Groundhog Day is a classic because it works on so many levels. For starters, the movie's central premise, being forced to repeat the same day over and over, is a great one (and one which has been copied by many TV shows). The movie takes this Twilight Zone-esque idea and runs with it and writer Danny Rubin is able to take this fantastic concept and apply a realistic tone to it. At it's core, this movie is very philosophical and it asks the audience the question, "What would you do in Phil's situation?" And the movie is able to answer that question by showing Phil doing just about everything imaginable. He takes advantage of the situation by becoming rich and wooing women. He becomes depressed and lonely, as he has to create the same relationships every day. And he becomes very wise, as he's able to witness the same events over and over and learn more about them each time. It may be a stretch to accuse Groundhog Day of being deep, but for a comedy, the movie takes its subject matter very seriously (and there are some truly sad moments here). Also, the movie lets the audience off the hook by explaining why this is happening to Phil. We are simply on the journey with him.

However, Groundhog Day's best asset is that it's one of the funniest films of the 90s, and this is thanks to the genius of Bill Murray. No matter what you think of Murray and the curmudgeonly roles which he's become accustomed to taking as of late, this is Murray at his smug, silliest best. Through his performance, we are able to hate and then love Phil, as he makes his journey of self-discovery. This works because Murray is so adept at reacting to things and his facial expressions are priceless as he takes in all of the craziness happening around him. As Phil learns about Punxsutawney, he must adapt to certain situations, and in the one of the films trademark stylistic points, we see the same scene twice and Phil behaves completely different the second time. Murray isn't the only funny one here, as Chris Elliot is able to stay in control and deliver some funny lines. The comedy in Groundhog Day goes from clever to side-splittingly funny and there is rarely a moment, even during the sad scenes, where you won't be smiling.

If you haven't seen Groundhog Day, then stop what you are doing and see it now. The film is a modern-day masterpiece which show Bill Murray in top-form and Director Harold Ramis proving once again that he's more than just Egon Spengler. This is that rare film which is both poignant and hysterical and if you're like me, it will become one of those movies which you watch every year...whether or not it's Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day comes out of its burrow and onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mpbs. The transfer here has its pros and cons. Some of the shots are very clear, while others are notably grainy. There are also some minor defects from the source material. There is some obvious video noise in one shot, and I rarely see that on Blu-ray. The level of detail is alright and the colors are OK, but the image doesn't have much depth and some shots don't look much better than DVD. The Disc houses a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio fares much better than the video here, as the track provides nice stereo and surround effects. The noise from crowd scenes is audible through the rear channels and we get nice separation from the front channels. Some low subwoofer effects can be heard in some scenes.

The Groundhog Day Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Harold Ramis. In "A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis" (10 minutes) the Director talks about the reaction to the film, and how it's been embraced by many different facets of society. This is one of those nice retrospectives where the filmmaker can reflect on the movie and discuss how the movie has aged. He talks about the groundhog and the choice of casting Murray. "The Weight of Time" (25 minutes) is a making of featurette which offers comments from Ramis, Producer Trevor Albert, and Writer Danny Rubin. They discuss the structure of the original script, the casting (which contains comments from Andie MacDowell and Stephen Tobolowsky). From there, they discuss the film's production and the film's themes. "The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life Look at Marmots" (6 minutes) is a mini-documentary which shows scientists who study marmots, a form of groundhog. When the viewer chooses "Needle Nose Ned's Picture-in-Picture Track", Tobolowsky will appear on-screen in character which trivia and questions. Unfortunately, he seems to talk over all of the best lines. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about six minutes. Most of these simply show more of what Phil did to pass the time.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long