A cynical television weatherman reporting on the annual festival finds himself experiencing the same day repeatedly, allowing him to change his life and try to win over the woman of his dreams.
Criminally snubbed by the Oscars but now one of the most highly regarded movies, “Groundhog Day” is not like many comedies. Its blend of science fiction with comedy allows even the most die-hard Sci-Fi fan to enjoy the films rosy and comfortable narrative.
The protagonist of the film is Phil Connors (Murray). A weatherman at a reasonably successful cable company, he really is the epitome of a jerk. Despite his joking on-screen personality to those who watch his forecast, he mocks those who tries to establish any form of human contact with him. But when he is sent to report on Pennsylvania’s famous festival, he is to work with a new producer Rita (McDowell). Rita is the exact opposite of Phil. An optimistic, cultured individual, Phil takes an instant like to her. But how on earth would Phil ever tingle Rita’s heart strings?
The initial weather report goes well. All involved are happy, but for some reason they are stopped from returning to the station by a heavy snow storm and are forced to stay overnight in Punxsutaweny. The next day, Phil awakes to discover it is February 2nd once more. This is not right, Phil thinks. Maybe he dreamt it all. But what kind of dream is so vivid that he can remember the tiniest of details, from what the incredibly annoying yet likeable Ned Ryerson (Toblowsky) does for a living to what his ever-faithful cameraman Larry (Elliot) would say. And, it seems, only Phil appears to be experiencing this insane case of déjà vu.
The next day, Phil awakes and it happens again. Ned Ryerson is still annoying him, his foot for some reason finding the icy puddle of water and that darn groundhog being celebrated. What is Phil to do?
At first, thanks to some advice by some inebriated locals, Phil sees his situation as an advantage. His actions have no consequences, and thus goes on to do whatever the heck he likes. Stealing money, wooing complete strangers; no feat is impossible to achieve. However, despite all his tomfoolery, he finds that he still cannot achieve what he really wants; making Rita fall in love with him.
Despite his hard work, he finds that feat near on impossible. For what seems years for Phil, but only twenty-four hours for those enjoying the festivities, he fails. His thoughts turn suicidal. What is the point of life if I cannot share it with Rita, he thinks. But even dying is something he cannot achieve. Every morning he awakes just as he has done the previous countless other times. Screw it, he thinks. Rita’s always-ever pleasant nature convinces Phil that he has been blessed, and Phil goes out to do good for others, rather than for himself. But, despite his actions, will he ever become that better person Rita so obviously wants him to be?
Directed by Harold “Egon Spengler” Ramis, this film seems to have an appealing aspect for all. The good use of comedy, combined with the romantic sub-plot along with an added sprinkling of science fiction, mix well to create a high-quality comedy. As always, Murray is his usual brilliant self. Even when he has no dialogue, his facial reactions chuckle even the most placid of audiences. McDowell, who is not as bankable as Murray, delivers with her girl-next-door presence. It’s hard to believe that barely twelve months later, her role in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” would be rubbished and mocked for years to come. But here, she is as cute as a box of new-born puppies.
The surprise winner of the movie is Toblowsky. I was as surprised as the next person when I noticed that this actor, who takes each role seriously with not many laughs coming from him, seemingly relishing acting the part of the clown. How he ever achieves the same quality of “Ned, Ned Ryerson” each take is the mark of a great actor. As already mentioned, the reason why this film was snubbed by the Oscars remains a mystery. It’s not every film that has been recognised by spiritual leaders. Ramis mentions on the DVD commentary that he still receives letters congratulating him on directing such a positive movie showing that no matter how bad things are there is always another way out. Phil’s attempts to better himself are both humorous but informative as well; no matter how long it takes if there is something you would like to achieve it is possible. A message we can all take to heart.
Now fifteen years old, “Groundhog Day” is a hodgepodge of ideas that merge together to create an entertaining movie. Murray has never been at his comedic finest, and the films conclusion is justice to what Phil has experienced that leaves the audience with a rewarding feeling that seems to be lacking in most contemporary movies. Although Phil complains that other days in his life should have been repeated rather than February 2nd, I believe that the eventual outcome is most satisfying for him. A highly recommended movie that appeals to all members of the family.