I was never sure why I watched Groundhog Day so much when I was a kid. I tried to remember the reasons why, but it always just seems to roll back to the fact the film was PG, it had Bill Murray in it (who I imagine I liked as a kid because of Ghostbusters) and it was what the library had in stock a lot on the days we went to rent movies. Then, as I watched the film for this DVD release it dawned on me: maybe I didn’t actually watch the film that much…it just seems like I did because of the films storyline. To this day I’ve no idea if I actually watched it a lot or just thought I did—but man, if it wasn’t fun to watch it again after all these years.
Loved by people of all ages, Groundhog Day proved to be quite the successful film for Harold Ramis when it originally released in 1993. Opening to fair reviews and plenty of positive feedback from movie goers, Groundhog Day actually spurred on a bit more religious debate than was intended. With a plotline about a man who relives the same day over and over again, church goers had plenty to relate to their own religion and how what Phil Connors (Bill Murray) was going through was either some form of purgatory or just some divine intervention to set his life straight.
The biggest difference that Groundhog Day has over other comedies of the 1990s and, really, comedies in general is that it takes such a swift turn during the course of the film, you’re never quite sure where its going to end up. I was actually able to re-experience this while watching the film again because it’d been so long since I’d last seen it—I only knew that Phil repeated the same day over and over and, at the end, he ended up with Rita (Andie MacDowell). So while watching it I began to slowly remember the events as they happened, but never being quite sure about the events that were going to occur.
Groundhog Day’s biggest strengths rely on Bill Murray’s performance throughout. The DVD extras talk about how Tom Hanks was originally sought out for the role of Phil Connors, but it’s a good thing as he wasn’t. As Hanks told Ramis after the film had come out, the audience wouldn’t have believed that he was inherently evil like Murray was able to pull off. Murray was able to befuddle the viewer because he’s able to switch personas so fast and we were never quite sure where he was going to take the character next.
What surprised me most about Groundhog Day was simply how dark it got. I remembered it being a comedy, but the suicide elements of it, while played out in a slightly comical fashion, are quite depressing when you take a step back and look at it. In that respect the film becomes more of a dark comedy for a few moments, because anytime you laugh at suicide…well, that’s not exactly on the upbeat side.
The film keeps a solid pace throughout that is never hindered in any way. Murray and company make for a great film that’s enjoyable by everyone and anyone. While the PG rating may indicate it’s for younger audience, it does deal with a few more adult elements that kids may be used to.
At this point in time, Groundhog Day could be considered a classic, especially to those who have been watching it since its theatrical release. While the repetition of days may bother some (I know my mother gets very annoyed by this movie), it’s really a great film that should have as many viewers as possible. It makes you laugh, cry and feel good in the end—what more could you want? Recommended.
For Groundhog Day’s fifteenth anniversary, Sony decided to release a new edition of the film, making this release number three on the DVD format. So if you picked up the last edition, a special edition with commentary, a making-of and some other miscellaneous extras, is this one worth it?
First up we’ll tackle the presentation of this DVD. Packaging is your standard single disc amaray affair with a slip cover and no inserts. DVD menus are animated and have music over the main menu and are pretty easy to navigate. The audio and video for the film are rather nice for a film of its age, although the video does have a bit of flicker in the beginning portions, as well as some ugly grain. Other than that it’s a fine DVD transfer—not perfect, but decent enough. The audio, a 5.1 Dolby Surround track, rarely makes use of the rear speakers, although there is the occasional chatter in the more crowded sequences.
Moving onto the extras we first have the two repeat extras from the special edition. A full length commentary with writer/director Harold Ramis is informative and a ton of fun to listen to, although he does tend to quote what’s happening on screen a lot. There’s some dead air occasionally, but all together it’s a solid track that those who enjoyed the film will find entertaining. The next repeated extra is The Weight of Time (24:40) which is essentially a making-of documentary with interviews from cast and crew (sans Murray). There’s some nice behind the scenes footage spliced in here as well with Murray improvising his way through scenes.
Next up are the actual new extras to this release. First up is A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis (9:57) which recounts a lot of the tales he told on the commentary and making-of, but in a nice anamorphic widescreen picture. After this is “The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Look at Marmots” (6:22) and, well…you can guess what this is about. Also in anamorphic widescreen, these are the only two new featurettes on the set. However, after these featurettes, we have six deleted scenes (5:49) which are all really quite good. No commentary is provided sow e don’t really know why certain these were left out, though one can imagine for pacing reasons. We do get to see Murray in “good Phil” mode more in these scenes, however.
Overall this is a solid fifteenth anniversary edition for Groundhog Day. It sucks Murray wasn’t involved in any of the extras, which would’ve really made this DVD worth upgrading for. If you don’t already own the Special Edition release from 2002 then this one will definitely come Highly Recommended. Owners of that SE, however, will find that this is one they can Skip.
Groundhog Day: 15th Anniversary Edition is now available on DVD.