Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day is an astounding comedy, because it constantly repeats itself and yet is endlessly watchable. While not the first instance of a time loop in fiction (Star Trek: The Next Generation did such an episode the previous year called ”Cause and Effect,” and there have been books and stories that came long before), but it depicts a 24-hour loop so fully and entertainingly that it is now the go-to example of time repetition. The recent Edge of Tomorrow was always compared with Groundhog Day, not with its lesser-known predecessors.
Easily Bill Murray’s best role, Phil Connors is the kind of cynical jerk he plays so well, condescending, sarcastic, the perfect candidate for an unexplained time paradox makeover. Over the course of his many Groundhog Days, he displays the full spectrum of reactions to his helpless situation: confusion, revelry, manipulation, depression, suicide, self-progress, and eventual altruism. The way he responds to the quirky townspeople of Punxsutawney, at first with disdain, then with fond geniality and authentic concern, clearly reveals his change of heart, as does his relationship with Rita, a down-to-earth Andie McDowall. All the repetition makes for certain scenes to be easily memorable, such as that buoyant polka music, the alarm clock’s Sonny and Cher theme, and Phil’s run-in with Stephen Tobolowsky’s geekily weird Ned…Ryerson! Bing! I especially love that groundhog gnawing the air at the steering wheel. Plus, George Fenton’s song “Weatherman” at the beginning is repeated at the end, thus making it eligible for my End Credits Song Hall of Fame.
Critics have discussed the film’s deeper themes, like Buddhist transcendence and Catholic purgatory, evidence that a good comedy is not simply a string of jokes but contains the potential for profound questions and intelligent discussion. While I prefer to just watch the film for its own hilarious sake, small details reveal divine presence, such as when Phil’s claim of being a god is contradicted by his futile efforts at saving a life. One does wonder whether Phil’s situation is intended as a blessing or a curse, since I can see myself being exasperated at the constant déjà vu and delighted with all the time at my disposal, but I suppose it is mainly an opportunity, to improve himself, assist the town, and become the perfect man for Rita. Whether for the delightful humor or the more profound messages, one can enjoy Groundhog Day time after time after time.Best lines (so many): (Phil Connors) “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” [my VC’s favorite] (Phil) “Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?” (Mrs. Lancaster) “I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.” (Phil’s piano teacher, as he is playing for her) “Not bad… Mr. Connors, you say this is your first lesson?” (Phil) “Yes, but my father was a piano mover, so…” Rank: 60 out of 60
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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love this movie so much! Ramis and Murray found a way to repeat a day over and over again and we never get tired of it…actually the opposite happens.
Great review as always!