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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Groundhog Day (1993)

Man in Hallway: Morning. Off to see the groundhog? Phil: Yeah. Man in Hallway: Think it'll be an early spring? Phil: Didn't we do this yesterday? Man in Hallway: I don't know what you mean. Phil: Don't mess with me, Pork Chop. What day is this? Man in Hallway: February 2nd. Groundhog Day. Phil: Yeah. You know, I thought it was yesterday.
- Ken Hudson Campbell, Bill Murray

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: February 04, 2002

Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell
Other Stars: Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray
Director: Harold Ramis

MPAA Rating: PG for mild sexual content
Run Time: 01h: 40m: 57s
Release Date: January 29, 2002
UPC: 043396058163
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-BB+ B+

DVD Review

A cynical Pittsburgh weatherman might not be your leading candidate for the protagonist of the best Zen movie Hollywood has ever produced, but Groundhog Day is an object lesson in the studio system at its finest; and it's a warning about judging a book by its cover, this film from the makers of Stripes that rivals Why Has The Bodhi-Dharma Left For The East? in its profundity. Okay, maybe that's a little overblown, because Groundhog Day is also squarely in the tradition of Hollywood comedy, the tale of a curmudgeon who learns to wake up and smell the coffee, to appreciate the small pleasures that life has to offer. In this respect, the movie of Murray's it most resembles is probably Scrooged, another story in which supernatural events intervene to turn a jerk into a human being. Murray's comic talents are enormous, and sometimes seem almost effortless, which contributes to the frequent feeling that he's not worthy of his material. He's just so casually brilliant in things like Rushmore and Tootsie that it can be maddening to see him settle for throwaway projects like The Man Who Knew Too Little, or doing a jokey turn in Charlie's Angels. But Groundhog Day is well suited to him, and you almost get a sense that he knows it, that this is his chance to do some of his best work. Murray plays Phil Connors, your weatherman at Channel 9, WPBH Pittsburgh, dispatched on his fourth annual trek to Punxsutawney, for the Groundhog Festival. If Phil the Groundhog sees his shadow, we're in for another six weeks of winter. Covering this story for Connors is like dentistry—cornpone hicks celebrating a rodent, and there's no place he'd like to be less. Along with him are a cameraman, Larry, played by Chris Elliott, and Andie MacDowell as a new producer at the affiliate, named Rita.Phil suffers through the festivities and files a jaded report, but a brutal snowstorm—one he should have predicted, but didn't—drives him back to Punxsutawney, from which he'll have to wait another day to escape. But he wakes the next morning to find the impossible: it's February 2nd all over again, it's still Groundhog Day. As is the next day. And the next. And the one after that. (One of the great things about this movie is that it never explains its central mystery, and we're mercifully spared a painfully expository scene about time travel and the universe, the kind of thing that brings the Back to the Future movies to the occasional grinding halt.) Once Phil has a handle on his situation, it's incredibly liberating—Phil can crash cars, can seduce women, can get himself killed, can do anything, and he'll wake up the next morning to the same morning, to Groundhog Day, to Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe merrily chirping from the clock radio at the bed and breakfast. But that gets old quick too, and Phil remains baffled by his dilemma: is this a curse? A blessing? What can he do to turn today into tomorrow?The screenplay is wonderfully creative, and the production elements deserve particular credit, for matching the same day over and over again, down to the cars on the streets and the extras walking by. Phil's journey takes him through the five stages of grief (a point that Harold Ramis cannily makes on the commentary track): denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance. Over the course of living the same day for years, Phil grows up. Discussing the film on this abstract level takes away some of the fun—a summary can't describe the glee on Murray's face as he consumes pastry after pastry (Why not?), or the devilishness in finding out about a woman's past today so you can use it to hit on her tomorrow (which, in Phil's case, is also today). But there's also something downright touching in Phil's epiphany, with Rita, his producer, on the day he finally gets it right: "No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I'm happy now, because I love you." Without being too curmudgeonly, I'd say that there is in fact a weak link here, and it's Andie MacDowell. Rita comes to represent for Phil everything he wants, the key to his salvation, the answer that will break him out of this endless cycle of Groundhog Days—but it's unclear to me just what Rita brings to the party, why she's this paragon. (I admit to not being much of an Andie MacDowell fan; I have some of the same problems with her role in Four Weddings and a Funeral.) But that may be nitpicking, and I'm not one for picking too many nits. There's something downright joyous in Phil's transformation, both for him and the audience—it's a pleasure taking this journey with Murray, and in the theme-and-variation inventiveness that went into the making of the picture.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Some debris pops up now and again, interfering with an otherwise fine transfer. The filmmakers deserve particular credit for making every day of a months-long shoot look like early February, and the lights and darks are especially well balanced on this disc.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanish, Portugueseyes
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Mix is nice and warm, and does a serviceable job notdrawing too much attention to itself in this dialogue-driven movie. TheDolby Digital track sound a little cleaner to my ears than the Surround one, which every now and again seems inappropriately muffled. (And beware: the case says that there's a DTS track; there isn't, but the Dolby Surround track goes unmentioned on the packaging.)

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Peggy Sue Got Married, It Could Happen To You
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Harold Ramis
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Director Harold Ramis's commentary is a pretty thorough one, and though he does trail off toward the end of the movie, a couple of obvious Hollywood things jump out. The film wasn't shot in Punxsutawney, PA, home of the true groundhog, because it was considered insufficiently photogenic, and so the shoot was in Woodstock, Illinois. And Ramis talks about the changes he made to Danny Rubin's original script, in which the action started in the middle of things, during one of Phil's many groundhog days. Instead, Ramis's rewrite backed up the truck, and starts on February 1. Ramis ranges from film wonk (the opening theme was composed as a tribute to Nino Rota) to giddily greedy (he held on to the Armani overcoat that Murray wears throughout the movie), to just plain goofy—he tells us that when released in Brazil, where Groundhog Day isn't celebrated, the movie was called The Black Hole of Love. Ramis is also an old softie—he talks about how he teared up the first time he read the script, but then again, he adds, "I cried in X-Men." He seems particularly pleased with the responses to the movie from unconventional corners, ranging from Chasidic Jews to Zen Buddhists to an article in the Journal of Object Relational Therapy. The Weight of Time (24m:41s) is a reasonably thorough documentary on the movie, featuring Ramis, Rubin, the producer Trevor Albert, and Andie MacDowell; most articulate is Stephen Tobolowsky, who plays Ned Ryerson—bing!—the high school buddy who tracks down Phil in Punxsutawney and tries to sell him insurance. Conspicuously absent here, of course, is Bill Murray. Certainly it's his prerogative not to participate in the commentary track or other extras, but the documentary feature tantalizes us with just a few frames of Murray off camera, either flubbing his lines, or preparing for a take, or goofing with the cast and crew. There must be some great deleted scenes or a gag reel somewhere; they would have made a terrific addition to this disc.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

It's hard to think of a movie that's a better combination of laugh-out-loud funny and spiritually bracing, and while you may come away hungering for still more extras on this special edition, Groundhog Day is good company on February 2nd or even the day after—even if that day is February 2nd, too.

 


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