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Groundhog Day

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Groundhog Day

Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell
Director: Harold Ramis
Rated: PG
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: February 1993
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Marita Geraghty, Angela Paton, Rick Ducommun, Rick Overton

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  David Wilcock read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

At first glance, GROUNDHOG DAY looks like a film that epitomises the worst in today's Hollywood - the lack of originality and total reliance on "high concept". The plot is "borrowed" from a short SF story by Richard A. Lupoff, then turned into TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, short film by Jonathan Heap and, finally, passable but forgettable TV thriller by Jack Sholder. But this 1993 comedy, directed by noted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE comedian Harold Ramis is actually something very rare in today's Hollywood - a film that is in the same time very funny and very humane, thought-provoking yet entertaining. Because of that the authors of GROUNDHOG DAY should be forgiven for their use of not so original idea.

The film begins in Pittsburgh television station, where weatherman Phil Conners (played by Bill Murray) receives yet another routine and boring assignment - he must go to small town of Punxsutawney and cover Groundhog Day, the traditional event where a local mascot, groundhog named Phil, indicates the length of remaining winter day. Conners, self- centred misanthropic, is so disgusted with the task that he decides to make life miserable for his producer Rita (played by Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott). To make things even worse for him, the unexpected blizzard grounds the crew in the small town. When he wakes up the next day, he suddenly realises that the people are saying the same lines, using the same gestures and that the same events are happening all over again. He is stuck in the time loop and he is forced to relive Groundhog Day again and again for, its seems, all eternity. Stuck in something resembling personal hell, Phil must find a way to adapt to the new situation.

Supernatural comedy as a sub-genre more often than not produced weak, mediocre and formulaic movies in modern Hollywood. Humour in such comedies was lame, storylines cliched and predictable, and it usually degenerated into self-serving special effects bonanza. But, it wasn't the case with the GROUNDHOG DAY, mostly because the movie had employed the talents already experienced in such areas. The director and co-screenwriter Harold Ramis had already proved himself by writing a screenplay for GHOSTBUSTERS, a similar, although more spectacular product of that genre. For this film, he was joined by Danny Rubin and the result was very intelligent and tight script. The best thing two of them did was to get rid of any scientific, para-scientific or magical explanations for the personal time warp - which would probably look corny and unconvincing. Instead they concentrated on the practical matters and explored the ways an average man like Phil would cope with the situation. And it was done superbly. Movie that covers the same situations and dialogues over and over again was in great danger of being repetitive. But the script prevented this - after being introduced to the main storyline in first, "normal", segment, we see how even the smallest of details could branch a whole new and interesting chain of events.

What makes this film especially funny is the great talent of Bill Murray, one of the best comedians in modern Hollywood. The entire movie rested on his shoulders. While all other actors had rather simple roles to repeat, his character was the only one being the aware the utter repetitiveness of his existence and thus the only one who was changing through the entire movie. It was really fine to see the different ways he reacted to the situation - anger, disbelief, despair and final acceptance - all that through the subtle gestures or one-liners. What makes his character even more humane and likeable, despite his more than obvious flaws, is a fact that the he is faced with perpetual dilemmas and that he takes different courses of actions, many of them the same ones some of us would take in his place. And, finally, we see him change and change for the better, which, of course would reward both him and the audience with a happy ending.

The other actors and their performances were, as someone should expect, shadowed by Bill Murray's role and reduced to bit parts. Andie MacDowell as his attractive producer Rita was, of course, good in her role, but the chemistry between Murray and her wasn't particularly engaging, making their romantic subplot somewhat too formulaic. And the editing in this very well directed film should have been better - Phil's mood change from manic to suicidal seems a little bit too sudden. But, despite those minor flaws, GROUNDHOG DAY deserved its reputation of a surprisingly good film, reputation that gives it a serious potential to be regarded as 1990s classic by future filmophiles.

Copyright 1999 Dragan Antulov

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