I like to follow my kids' college football teams -- so I was very happy for former University of Southern California coach Pete Carroll today -- but I don't follow pro football. For me, Super Bowl Sunday is a great time to take in a movie, and since this year Super Bowl Sunday was also Groundhog Day, what better movie to see than...GROUNDHOG DAY?!
GROUNDHOG DAY was shown on big screens nationwide this afternoon as part of the Cinemark Classic Series. Cinemark will host two more screenings of the movie on Wednesday, February 5th.
Leaving aside the debate of whether or not movies of the '80s and '90s can be termed classics -- though I'd venture to say, at least in the case of GROUNDHOG DAY, the answer is "yes" -- the series is a good opportunity to revisit some old favorites on a big screen. In my case, I had small children when most of the films in the series were released and never saw any of them in the theater. It was thus a real treat to finally see this favorite film on a big screen.
The first sequence with Phil doing the weather report was too grainy and a bit blotchy looking, but after that the print was sharp and crystal clear, just as it was for WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) in December. Based on these two experiences, I am definitely open to seeing Cinemark's digital presentations of older films again in the future.
Most everyone must know the story by now, with the phrase "Groundhog Day" having become part of the American lexicon as a way to describe endless repetition. Cynical, selfish TV weatherman Phil Connors is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) and producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities.
A blizzard forces the crew to remain in town that night, and when Phil awakens the next day, he's perplexed to hear the exact same thing on the radio that he'd heard the day before. Thinking it's a tape, he becomes even more confused when everything that happened the day before seems to repeat itself. At first he thinks it's a serious case of deja vu, but before long Phil realizes he's condemned to a life where every morning at 6:00 a.m., it's Groundhog Day all over again.
Phil then goes through a period of suicidal despondency. It's only when he finally sheds his cynicism and fills his time with self-improvement and service to others that he finds inner peace, happiness, and love -- and perhaps even a way out of his eternal loop of Groundhog Days.
The movie's themes work so well in part because the eminently quotable script is never cloying, with Murray wisecracking all the way to the last sweet moment ("We'll rent to start!"). Murray strikes just the right notes as he cycles through Phil's stages of confusion, anger, acceptance, and happiness.
It's also fairly remarkable how a script with endlessly repeating circumstances never becomes dull -- part of the movie's fun is the variations on each repeating moment. It's even enjoyable looking for the faces of various townspeople as they turn up in different settings.
The movie was directed by Murray's GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) costar, Harold Ramis. Ramis has a cameo as a doctor who examines Phil. The screenplay of this 101-minute film was written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, from Rubin's story. The cinematography is by John Bailey.
Parental Advisory: This film is a very mild PG rating.
GROUNDHOG DAY is available on DVD, Blu-ray, VHS, and Amazon Instant Video. The DVD can be rented from Netflix.
There's a short trailer at IMDb.
On Groundhog Day in years past I've occasionally linked to a column Jonah Goldberg wrote on the film. Goldberg writes "The point is that Connors slowly realizes that what makes life worth living is not what you get from it, but what you put into it." As the saying goes, read the whole thing.
GROUNDHOG DAY would surely make my list of Top 10 movies of the last quarter century. (I should do a post with that theme sometime...) Most highly recommended.
Previously: Groundhog Day 20th Anniversary.