Groundhog Day (United States, 1993)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The date is February 2 and the place is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), on hand to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony, is having one of the most unpleasant experiences of his life. It's one of those days when Murphy's Law seems to be in full effect. But Phil soon discovers that things are worse than they first seemed, because for him, and him alone, time has stopped. Now, he's trapped in a bizarre time loop that forces him to re-live Groundhog Day over and over, with no hope of reprieve or release, and no way of explaining the situation to anyone else since he's the only one who realizes what's happening.

It's deja vu gone mad. Groundhog Day is one of the most original comedies to grace the screen in months. With as much repetition as there is, it would be easy for the film to get bogged down. Solid directing, combined with judicious editing, eliminate the problem. The only time we see a scene repeated is when there's something new added, and even then we are re-shown little more than what's necessary for the effect.

The humor is of a higher caliber than that found in most so-called comedies. Absent are the inane sight gags and puns of films like Hexed and Loaded Weapon 1. Instead, Groundhog Day finds its humor in situations and characters. Making use of Bill Murray's talent as a comedian, the film encourages him to play off of the more serious Andie MacDowell. While the chemistry between them isn't smouldering, they work well together. Their characters' romance is credible because it's low-key.

Groundhog Day isn't a science fiction or fantasy film, so it's not interested in answering the technical questions of how the time loop came about, or what might happen if Phil stayed up all night. Instead, it presents the situation to the audience on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I'll wager that there are few who will choose the latter option.

With all of the formula-driven, painfully unfunny comedies available today, it's a pleasure to uncover something as unique as Groundhog Day, especially in the month of February, which isn't known for strong releases. This movie has all the qualities necessary to be a crowd-pleaser: likable characters, charismatic performers, a strong, capably-executed premise, and lots of laughs.

Groundhog Day (United States, 1993)

Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot
Screenplay: Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis
Cinematography: John Bailey
Music: George Fenton
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 1:41
U.S. Release Date: 1993-02-12
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1