Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2012
Directed by: Harold Ramis
OVERVIEW – Groundhog Day
“Groundhog Day” is a classic American comedy film that touches all the right notes. Directed by Harold Ramis, the film stars actor Bill Murray in the role of weatherman Phil Connors, a man who unfortunately has the fate of living the same day over and over again. Groundhog Day originated in southern Pennsylvania during the mid-19th century due to a German custom. Traditionally, a groundhog (or badger) would gaze out of his winter cave to see if his shadow can be seen on the ground below. If the groundhog could see his shadow, he would peer back inside his cave and redo this process each day for weeks on end until his shadow couldn’t be seen, at which point it was safe to come out. Groundhog Day is celebrated each year on February 2, primarily in Pennsylvania, but also in surrounding states.
In the early ’90s, Danny Rubin wrote a script that focused on weatherman Phil repeating Groundhog Day. An original screenplay was put to filmmakers, but it was sent back because no background information was provided as to why Phil had to repeat each day over and over again. Rubin redid the script to better explain why Groundhog Day was occurring. A reworked script showed Phil was in a time loop that had lasted for decades. Before filming began, Harold Ramis was brought in to direct the film, while Bill Murray was cast as Phil. Ramis and Murray had a professional and personal history that dated back years.
The shooting location for much of the film took place in Woodstock, a small suburb of northwest Illinois. Because of the cold weather at the time, residents of the city offered heaters and blankets to cast and crew members so they could keep warm. For filming purposes, a café was created in order to shoot many of the film’s sequences. Known as the Tip Top Café, the set was due to be demolished after filming, but it remained after protests against closing it down. To this day, the café remains open, although it’s now known as Bella’s Gelateria.
The film begins with weatherman Phil, news producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) traveling to the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on February 1 to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities the following day. Phil isn’t too enamored with this assignment, but he begrudgingly completes his news report and immediately gets the team on the road back to Pittsburgh; however, a storm blocks all travel out of the city. The team has no choice but to turn around and head back to Punxsutawney.
The next day Phil wakes up to discover the previous day is being repeated. Phil is the only one of his team who realizes they’re in a time loop. This sequence occurs over and over again, but after a while Phil decides to take advantage of this recurring pattern by breaking the law in a number of different ways. Phil’s life turns to despair and he attempts suicide on many occasions, but wakes up on February 2 the next day no matter what he does.
Phil eventually explains his predicament to Rita, who encourages him to use this situation for good. Phil has a change of heart and does his best to build on his knowledge of the town each day and performs random acts of kindness. Rita is impressed by Phil’s good deeds, so the pair gets together one night. The following morning the pair wake up and find the curse has been broken, and it’s now February 3.
“Groundhog Day” was released to mixed reviews, with one critic going so far as to say the film would never be included as a national film treasure in the Library of Congress, a claim that was proved false in 2006 when the National Film Preservation Board chose to include the film in the Library. It did remarkably well at the box office, bringing in more than $70 million, which was five times more than the production budget, and becoming the 13th highest grossing film of 1993. At the British Comedy Awards of 1993, the film won the award for Best Comedy Film. Also, Andie MacDowell won the Saturn Award for Best Actress in a film for her role as Rita.
Since the film’s release, the phrase groundhog day has become embedded in American culture, in large part thanks to the film. “Groundhog Day” is a perfect film for the whole family that’s sure to offer up plenty of laughs.
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