Groundhog Day [retro review]

“This is pitiful. A thousand people, freezing their butts off, waiting to worship a rat.”

The Scoop: 1993 PG, directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott

Tagline: He’s having the day of his life…over and over again.

Summary Capsule: Grumpy weatherman is stuck in a small town and stuck in time.

Justin’s Rating: In Ned We Trust

Justin’s Review: Once upon a time, a time travel anomaly (the type that the Enterprise is oh-so-familiar with) collided with me. I was forced to relive my 9th grade Arbor Day a total of three times, and believe you me, I counted myself lucky. Who needs to mow the lawn three times in a row? Who needs to take that same Great Gatsby test (even if my score went from 71 on the first day to 99 on the third)? And Dana kept spurning my advances, no matter how much I knew about her stupid cat obsession. So I sympathize with Phil (Bill Murray), who goes through Groundhog Day ad infinitum, without a hope in snowy hell for change.

Comedy this may be, Groundhog Day is also a cleverly disguised scifi flick. If nothing else, the question posed by the film gets everyone thinking: if you had to relive the same day again and again, with nothing changing, what would you do? Go insane? Cast moral values to the wind? Hijack a truck and make a rodent drive it? I think that’s a logical assumption.

While it’s a great speculation piece, there is no reason given for Phil’s adventures through a day repeated. He’s a crabby little fellow (which always gives Murray his best material) who holds no love for life, coworkers, or small town Pennsylvania. Having graduated from a college near Punxsutawney and just returned from a visit to small town PA, I do have to say that these places simultaneously repel and charm me. They’re not perfect (for instance, there are more wife-beating drunk hicks in real life small town PA than portrayed here), but I loved the slower pace of life, getting to know your neighbors, and not driving home from work as if in a destruction derby. Ya hear that, Detroit? Your driving is TERRIBLE!

It’s fun to watch Phil go through a series of stages in his non-specific quest. He’s annoyed, bemused, criminal, suicidal, romantic, and honorable… all on the same day. He and various local towsfolk (such as Ned the shrill insurance guy — “Watch out for that first step, it’s a doooooooozy!”) interact as Big City meets Small Country, and it’s hilarious. Phil cracks me up as he mutters cutting witticisms under his breath and zings insults over others’ heads. He’s not the most likable fellow, but he’s funny, and we forgive a lot if someone’s funny.

Groundhog Day is a strange day in and of itself, and I think just acknowledging that for a theme and setting of the film is intrinsically funny. Groundhog Day. Think about it, won’t you? A one-blurb holiday that doesn’t deserve six seconds on Headline News, but gets its own feature film. An animal that probably kills small children with hidden fangs, celebrated as a symbol of country charm. A sappy romance that deadens the laughs. And a man, lost in a world far stranger than anything the Twilight Zone could have created. We like Groundhog Day. Stay tuned tomorrow for more of the same.

Nancy’s Rating: I don’t think I’d mind eating chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream over and over again every day for eternity.

Nancy’s Review: I sit in front of my friend’s computer as he avidly watches Groundhog Day while he advocates it’s genius in the process of watching it (“Did ya catch that line?!?! ‘Cause it was funny!!”) to the three people in the living room who are watching it with him, two of which have never seen it and curly-haired me, who has, several times (I think).

I just scavenged a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream searching for the spoonfuls with the most cookie dough possible. What was once a quart of ice cream is now an arctic cave that lacks any cookie dough whatsoever.

That’s not related; I just wanted to tell you all how much cookie dough I ate and brag a little.

First of all, groundhogs aren’t cute. I guess in the sense that they are living creatures and that makes them beautiful and loveable, but I don’t see them as something that emit the reaction, “Aw, would ya just look at that?” from wavy-haired women who are far too smart and savvy when they resist mens’ come-ons.

I also have a beef with Andie MacDowell. Sometimes there are just actresses who don’t seem to have any definitive qualities that make them special or noticeable. I don’t like that. I like the people who grab my attention, and even if it’s negative there is something to be said for it. Take Thirteen, that horrible movie with the clichés about rampant teenage addiction, sexuality and rebellion. I don’t think it was a superbly well-crafted movie, but it does make me say. “UGH!” out loud. And that’s something. Andie MacDowell doesn’t make me say, “UGH!”. She also doesn’t amaze me with acting talents, make me laugh or get me to say, “Wow, as a heterosexual woman, I would say that actress is beautiful”. She doesn’t do anything. She’s an absence of character. You don’t really notice her lack of anything until you think, “I don’t hate her… but I don’t like her” and you have to stop and analyze that there is nothing hateable, talented or loveable about this woman at all.

As my friend says, “I wouldn’t pick her first for anything”. See, if I were Andie, I would take that as the biggest insult ever, even more so then, “I would pick her first for the ritualistic slaughter fest, pre-empted by dinner with Carrot Top.”

Nonetheless, this film is starring Bill Murray and therefore a funny piece of material no matter what happens. I’ve never not been happy with Bill’s work, and I really want to see every single one of his movies so I can say that statement with absolute conviction. His mannerism and facial expression, the way he can deliver concieted and condescending lines with enough deadpan humor and blatant insecurity problems (or at least blatant to me; perhaps I ‘get’ Bill like no otha) to make you not hate him. His role in this film, as an arrogant TV weather man slowly descending into frantic insanity by the repetition of one day, and then his using the oppurtunity to get some lovin’… it’s loveable even though you know in the real world he’d be a jerk. But he’s funny, and he’s weird, and the way he moves his hands and says his lines in a way that is absolutely distinct, absolutely Bill Murray, is hilarious.

Ugh, Andie just said a horribly cliche line! “Oh, these sticky buns are just heaven.” SHUT UP! Do something weird. Have a quirk!

I think the genius of this movie lies in the witty lines, the strange concept and Bill Murray. But! Bill Murray is key. Witty lines + strange concept = subpar movie. Bill Murray + strange concept and Bill Murray + witty lines, however, both equal fantastic. Sometimes I talk in math.

Let’s talk for a second about the strange concept. Groundhog Day, first of all, is a funny and weird concept. Groundhog Day on repeat is something I really give the plot pitchers credit for. Like, I’m sure someone has thought, “Let’s make a movie about the weird thing implemented into our culture, Groundhog Day!” and someone I’m sure has said, “Let’s make a movie where Bill Murray comes up with a kooky and surreal way to get some lovin’” and then, “Let’s make a movie where a day is on repeat”. But the guy, the genius, that one smart fellow, presumably named Chester, with long dreadlocks and suspenders (do you ever get kind of sleepy and you’re not really sure what you’re saying anymore and you’re not that worried about it?) and cowboy boots who has a gap between his teeth that whistles when he announciates — I’m sorry, I’m going to start focusing right now — that one guy who stood up and said, “Hey! Let’s make a movie where Groundhog Day is on repeat and Bill Murray takes advantage of that situation to get lovin’.”

“I’m just trying to talk how normal people talk; isn’t this how they talk?”

Oh, I know how that situation feels, Bill.

Alright, I’m gonna wrap this up. Guys, like all Bill Murray movies, this has a great plot and it is spiced up by the genius and oddity of Bill himself. It wouldn’t be much without him, but it is witty, quirky, and generally pretty cool. The addition of Bill rockets it up to super-fricken-amazing, but the lack of any defining characteristic of Andie MacDowell kinda dulls the edges off of it and brings it to the level of Pretty Damn Good. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about Chris Elliot. Perhaps just because of roles in Everybody Loves Raymond and There’s Something About Mary, but I think he’s kind of creepy.

Nonetheless, Pretty Damn Good. If you like quirky comedies, you like this. And if you love Bill Murray, you won’t be let down.

P.S. I just remembered Andie MacDowell was in Hudson Hawk and was delightly quirky. I revoke everything I just said in the review.

P.P.S. Bill Murray still rules.

Yeah, I see the family resemblance

Intermission!

  • Director Harold Ramis (Egon!) as a rather fat doctor
  • Cinema is showing Heidi II
  • On February 2, 1993, the sun did not rise until 7:25 am in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, hence at 6 am it would still be fully dark.
  • After Phil saves Buster from choking in the restaurant, when he walks away, we hear Buster ask: “Who was that?” He knew, of course, who Phil was, as he can be seen attending Phil’s “Chekhov-speech” earlier that day.
  • The real Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney is on the outskirts of town, embedded in a wooded area, not in the center of town.
  • As Phil is walking toward the town plaza and he rounds the corner and passes by the old beggar, a number of shops can be seen over his shoulder to the right of the screen. This scene is repeated many times in the movie, and sometimes there are flags flying over the shops, while other times there are none.
  • Pittsburgh did not have 5:00 newscasts in 1993.
  • 1993’s Wrestlemania didn’t take place in Pittsburgh as the newlywed couple specified. It was held in Las Vegas that year. In fact, no Wrestlemania ever took place in Pittsburgh.
  • Phil Connors goes through February 2nd 34 times. There were many more days implied, of course: his hyper accurate knowledge of events in the armored car scene near the beginning of the day repetitions, also his vast knowledge of everyone in the town, diner etc. However, he clearly mentions 6 other deaths that he has experienced but have not been shown, thus making the number of days revealed in the movie 40, though only 34 days were actually shown. On the DVD, Harold Ramis states that the original idea was for him to live February 2nd for about 10,000 years. Later he says that Phil probably lived the same day for about 10 years.
  • Groundhog Day is based on an old Scottish couplet: “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.” On February 2nd of each year, it has become the custom to gather at Gobbler’s Knob outside Punxsutawney to see the groundhog forecast. This ceremony started in 1887, and was held in secret until 1966. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, it means spring is just around the corner. Approximately 90% of the time, Phil sees his shadow.
  • In one scene, Connors throws himself from the bell tower of a high building. This building is actually an opera house in Woodstock, Illinois. Local legend has it that a young girl once committed suicide by throwing herself from the same bell tower. Her ghost is supposed to haunt the opera house.
  • Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during the filming of this movie.
  • Not filmed in Punxsutawney, but actually in Woodstock, Illinois. There is a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle.
  • Early drafts of the script explained the cause of Phil Connors’ weird experience: a disaffected ex-lover called Stephanie cast a spell on him to teach him a lesson.

Groovy Quotes

Phil: People like blood sausage too. People are morons!

Rita: Would you like to come to dinner with Larry and me?
Phil: No thank you. I’ve seen Larry eat.

Rita: Where have you been?
Phil: It was horrible. A giant leech got me.

Phil: So, sleep okay without me? You tossed and turned, didn’t you?
Rita: You’re incredible.
Phil: Who told you?

Phil: This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.

Ned: Do you have life insurance, Phil? Because if you do, you could always use a little more, I mean, who couldn’t? But let me tell something–I got’s a feeling [whistles] you ain’t got any. Am I right or am I right or am I right?

First D.J.: Rise and shine, campers, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today!
Second D.J.: It’s cold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
First D.J.: Not hardly.

Phil: Do you ever have deja vu Mrs. Lankster?
Mrs. Lankster: I don’t think so, but I can check with the kitchen.

Phil: There is no way this winter is EVER going to end as long as that groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any way out of it. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.

Phil: It’s the same things your whole life. “Clean up your room!”, “Stand up straight!”, “Pick up your feet!”, “Take it like a man!”, “Be nice to your sister!”, “Don’t mix beer and wine, ever!”. Oh yeah, “Don’t drive on the railroad track!”
Gus: Eh, Phil. That’s one I happen to agree with.

Phil: Well what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!

Drunk Guy: Hey, who else could go for some flapjacks right about now?

Phil: [driving head-on toward a train] I’m betting he’s going to swerve first.

Phil: This is pitiful. A thousand people, freezing their butts off, waiting to worship a rat.

Rita: Why would anyone want to steal a groundhog?
Larry: I can think of a couple reasons. Pervert.

Nurse: Sometimes people just die.
Phil: Not today.

Phil: I’m a god. I’m not *the* God… I don’t think.

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12 Comments

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  2. If you really want to hate Andie McDowell and her lack of acting talent, watch Greencard. Wow. It sounds like she’s speedreading lines directly off cue cards or something at some points.

    That said, I think she’s hot as blazes in this film. I’d certainly pick her, mm mmm. She did begin her career as a model, after all.

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