GROUNDHOG DAY A film review by James Berardinelli Copyright 1993 James Berardinelli
Running Length: 1:41 Rated: PG (Little offensive)
Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot Director: Harold Ramis Producers: Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis Screenplay: Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis Music: George Fenton Released by Columbia Pictures
Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is having one of the most unpleasant days of his life on February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where he's covering the Groundhog Day celebration. It's one of those days when Murphy's Law seems to be in full effect. But Phil soon discovers that things are worse than they first seemed, because for him, and him alone, time has stopped. Now, he's trapped in a bizarre time loop where he's destined to re-live Groundhog Day over and over again, with no apparent hope of reprieve or release, and no way of telling anyone else since he's the only one that realizes what's happening.
It's deja vu gone mad. This is one of the most fresh and original comedies to grace the screen in a long time. After starting with an interesting premise, the film executes the story in a manner worthy of the idea. From beginning to end, GROUNDHOG DAY is enjoyable. Written with an intelligent viewer in mind, the picture will likely charm even the most cynical movie-goer.
With as much repetition as there is in GROUNDHOG DAY, it would be easy for the film to get bogged down. Solid directing, combined with judicious editing, eliminate the problem. The only time we see a scene repeated is when there's something new (and often amusing) added to it, and even then we are re-shown little more than what's necessary for the effect. The story always moves forward, often in unexpected directions.
The comedy is of the highest caliber. Absent are the inane sight gags and puns of films like HEXED and LOADED WEAPON 1. Instead, GROUNDHOG DAY finds its humor in situations and characters. It makes use of Bill Murray's prodigious talent as a comic and allows him to play off of the more serious Andie MacDowell. While the chemistry between them isn't smouldering, they work well together. Their characters' romance is credible because it's low-key.
GROUNDHOG DAY isn't a science fiction or fantasy film, so it's not interested in answering the technical questions of how the time loop came about, or what might happen if Murray's character Phil stayed up all night. Instead, it presents the situation to the audience, then does as much as it can with it. Suspension of disbelief is necessary, but not difficult to achieve. This may not be the perfect way to set up a movie but, at least in this case, it works.
With all of the formula-driven comedies available today, many of which are unfunny or only occasionally amusing, it's a joy to find something as unique as GROUNDHOG DAY. This movie has all the qualities necessary to a good comedy: likable characters, charismatic performers, a strong premise that is capably executed, and a lot of laughs. This might be one to see over and over and over....
Rating: 8.7 (A-, ***)
- James Berardinelli (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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