Groundhog Day Review

(3.5 STARS)

Groundhog Day is one of those films that can please just about every kind of moviegoer. Its charm is undeniable, and even the most cold-hearted viewer can get swept up in the premise’s cleverness and the romance’s tenderness. It’s got terrific performances, solid direction, and some truly timeless moments—what more can you ask for in a comedy?

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a cynical weatherman in Pittsburgh. He’s sick of the small pond he’s been stuck in for years, but nothing irritates him more than his annual trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every February 2 for Groundhog Day. This year, he gets stuck in a snowstorm, and is forced to spend an extra night in hell. But something strange happens—when he wakes up the next morning, he realizes that it’s Groundhog Day again. He’s forced to live that awful day over and over and over again. And no one else knows this is happening, meaning Phil is trapped with no end in sight.

The way Groundhog Day plays out is absolutely brilliant. There’s obviously a great sense of déjà vu involved, but Murray and director Harold Ramis pepper each day with a different outlook by Phil. At first, he’s depressed. Then, he realizes he can essentially do anything he wants. He eventually learns that this is an opportunity, but when he can’t quite achieve his goals, he grows depressed again. There are different events throughout the day (Phil bumping into an annoying high-school classmate, visiting a diner, and interacting with two coworkers) that play out different each day. It’s fascinating and immensely enjoyable to watch.

There’s another piece of Groundhog Day that’s more romantic than broad and comedic—Phil’s romantic situation with his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell). At first, his goal is simply to bed her. She doesn’t like him, but over the course of many days, he uses bits and pieces of information to get her to fall for him. He’s unable to seal the deal, but the harder he tries, the stronger his attraction toward her gets. As acerbic as Murray can be, he actually makes for a sweet and tender romantic leading man. And MacDowell is just delightful as Rita, the small town girl-next-door.

Of course, a film with a premise this high-concept will frustrate some, especially when it completely ignores one obvious question: What happens if Phil stays up all night? But such smart writing and direction are more than enough to forgive the occasional silliness or inconsistency of the plot. Just watching Murray smash that damn alarm clock with its Sonny and Cher wake-up call is more than worth your time. So if you’re one of the few who haven’t checked this classic out yet, you really should consider doing so.

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