‘Groundhog Day’-Throwback Review: Classic ’90s Comedy Written All Over

How would you react if you were given the chance to take part in the same day without having a single clue of breaking it? Feelings of being concerned, knowing the fact you’re invincible, or a little of both. If I were in the exact position as our main character, weird would be the right word to describe it. As all of us are waking up every morning thinking this pandemic is over and it sadly isn’t right now, it sure feels the same day, doesn’t it? With that in mind, it’s never too late to talk about why I love Groundhog Day like many others in the world. 

What’s the Story: Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a TV weatherman that basically cares about himself and not everyone around him. That all changes when he relives the same exact day, February 2, repeatedly in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania after doing his annual coverage of a Groundhog Day event with his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) while a blizzard hit the area.  In no way of wondering how to get him out of this time-loop, maybe this is a certain wake-up call in being a different person.

Groundhog Day, released on February 12, 1993 (my mom turned 33 on this day) is one of my favorite comedies of all-time, and I gave it a re-watch last week on Netflix, along with a ton of movies that I haven’t watched yet or haven’t seen in a long time and wanted to revisit them for old time sake. I can’t remember the first time I watched this, but it was probably at a later time in my time. Because when this came out, this was a concept that took a fresh spin in terms of time travel, in my opinion. The first time this came to my mind was this Nickelodeon original movie called Last Day of Summer, where it’s essentially the same premise. Everything else has been doing it with great effect in the science-fiction genre with fantastic movies like Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow

This was co-written and directed by the late Harold Ramis, who made an appearance as the neurologist, just knew how to construct every piece of the story without falling apart for a single moment. After a while, it doesn’t become stale once he starts the day again with Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” playing on the radio at 6 AM. Also, I would have no idea what to do if my alarm went off and the first song that was playing was that. I also just love how everything the characters that Phil runs into say the exact same thing without changing the way they sound, if that makes sense. It’s a concept that I’ve fallen for ever since I laid my eyes on this in a unique fashion. Thank you, Mr. Ramis, for giving us a wonderful piece of comedy that will forever be in your name.

For me, this movie wouldn’t have been amazing if it weren’t for Murray. I watched two movies with him last week: this and Lost in Translation. His performance as Phil Connor is just another comedic role he knocked out of the park. Murray does a terrific job playing the type of character that starts off being a jerk but took the chance of being someone better in time. There’s literally nobody else I can see playing this role, that even means Tom Hanks or Michael Keaton because they can’t play someone unlikable. The thing that’s always a shame to learn is that he and Ramis didn’t get along while filming the movie. This wouldn’t surprise me since Murray is well known for getting in feuds with his co-stars or director, but it’s hard when it’s someone that has worked with him before in the first two Ghostbusters or Stripes. From what I read, he didn’t speak to each other for over a decade after filming was complete. 

He uses this ability to his full-advantages like getting this woman to think they went to high school, steal a bag of money from an armored track by perfectly timing an incident, or just eating whatever he wants. Do we all? Not only that, but he starts to develop feelings for MacDowell’s Rita and learn certain aspects about her like her favorite drink and everything. Both of them worked well together in the scenes they share. One of the more interesting things about the relationship with them is how it might be unbelievable for Phil to manipulate Rita is just knowing details about her life, but there’s this sense of being able to see who he really is and start approaching her differently. The thing I’m still wondering about any time I randomly think about this is how long has Phil been in the time-loop because it looks like over ten times. Sources say that Ramis mentioned he was trapped for ten years. If that’s the truth, that would be an absolute nightmare. 

And did I mention this was absolutely hilarious? Because it totally is. Believe me when I say the screenplay by Ramis and Danny Rubin is not only genuinely heartwarming when it needs to, but the comedy is never dull. Everything that involves Murray is nothing short of greatness when he just becomes crazy and does all kinds of things when he’s dealing with no consequences. One of the funniest scenes was when Phil runs into Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), an annoying insurance salesman that he knew in high school and just punched him in the face after the fourth time. Even the moments when he just becomes sick of not moving on and starts to kill himself is oddly funny especially the moment when he kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, and stole the track he’s in.

Did I also mention a young Michael Shannon appeared in the film? Indeed, he was. I finally noticed him the first time a few years back and the future Oscar-nominated actor made his debut playing one of the newlyweds Phil helps in the end.  

But I came to understand about the film the more I think about it is that it’s all about improving yourself to become a better person or self-improvement. They portray Phil as a guy who only cares about himself and just wants to get his job done quickly and easily. With him repeating the same day, this allows him to be someone who doesn’t have a big ego about himself and decides not to be arrogant for once in his life. From the times we are young and when we get a little older, it’s our job to be kinder to people that we know or don’t and not become bitter in the long run. We all know those who might have grown to be out of life and don’t want to be a part of anything. Everybody needs a better tomorrow and make things better for ourselves and those around us. 

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (1993)

Nobody doesn’t want to keep taking part in a day that shouldn’t be worth remembering. Have there been times to just wishing the day would be better and correcting the mistakes we made? In a heartbeat. Even I want to go back to certain moments where I either messed up or took a chance to get to know somebody, especially a crush I had back in college. The sad part of that is you can’t change the past, and we have to live on with the rest of our lives in the best way possible. The film’s lesson about changing the way we are is used in an aspiring way that many can be attached to. Or when you’re talking about something like Edge of Tomorrow, die multiple times until you’re able to become a BA soldier and defeat the cocaine aliens. Man, the movie was sci-fi at its greatest.

27 years later, it’s still recognized as an instant classic, later selected by the National Film Preservation Board. Just a couple months ago, there was an awesome Jeep commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, watching it has become a tradition to watch on the actual holiday, and it’s even been turned into a Broadway musical, which I wouldn’t mind checking out if I visit New York again. 

So in the end, Groundhog Day is definitely one of my favorite comedies ever, and it’s up there in terms of re-watchable comedies of the ‘90s like Dumb and Dumber, The Big Lebowski, and others in the genre. This offers a comedic and sweet look about how we are capable of being better if we learn to not become selfish in our own ways. If you have never seen this, it’s a high recommendation for everybody to watch, and it’s available on Netflix like I mentioned before.

Overall Grade: A-

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