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Little interest has Phil Connors in the mirth of Groundhog Day,
But as Pittsburgh’s weatherman, another visit he must pay.
Punxsutawney welcomes him and his producer, lovely Rita,
But, remaining misanthropic, he would not want to repeat a
Day within this backwards town enthralled by shadows and a rat.
Keen on February 3rd, he finds the 2nd back at bat.
Every day, he wakens to the same old song and same old day,
And the shortest of the months becomes the lengthiest replay.
Unsure what to do at first, he soon finds things to break and borrow,
Loving, eating, then repeating, living like there’s no tomorrow.
Yet his sanity breaks down from all the pointless repetition,
Since his goal of wooing Rita never once comes to fruition.
Further tries to end the cycle get him nowhere, till the day
When he vents his own fatigue and Rita tries to help and stay.
Now his wiser, better goal is to improve himself, no scheme,
Helping with his near-omniscience, rising in the town’s esteem.
By the time he’s nearly perfect for the girl he’s come to love,
Groundhog Day releases Phil with sudden snowfall from above.

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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