Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993): USA

Reviewed by William Conlin. Viewed on Comcast – On Demand.

When I was growing up, my favorite fantasy film was the story of a man trapped in one time and one place. Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day is a funny, heartwarming tale of self-improvement, love and weather-predicting animals.

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a self-centered, egotistical weatherman who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the town’s world famous Groundhog Day festival. Phil narcissistically carries out his duties so he can head home but finds himself trapped in a blizzard until the next morning, but for Phil, the next morning never comes. Phil wakes up on Groundhog Day once again and everything is as it was. That night the same thing happens again. No matter what Phil does he can’t escape from Groundhog Day. After a while it becomes clear his only hope is to become a better man or be trapped in Groundhog Day forever.

Technically, there is nothing special about this film. It’s well directed and well edited, but where it truly excels is its script and acting. Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s screenplay is so well conceived that it seems impossible to get it wrong. Murray leads this small but well rounded cast perfectly. The viewing truly feels his switch from being self-centered to being good hearted. Andie McDowell fits well as his love interest and Chris Elliot delivers great sidekick laughs as a dim-witted cameraman.

Groundhog Day was a great commercial success in its initial release, grossing nearly six times its production cost but its true popularity came later, when it became a television staple. I remember seeing it on a cable channel at least once a week when I was growing up.

When the American Film Institute ranked its Top 10 films in each genre, Groundhog Day was #8 on the “Fantasy” list. Though it may not fall into the traditional idea of a fantasy film, I think it’s a great story of how we can change ourselves if we’re given the chance to see our shortcomings.

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