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GROUNDHOG DAY ($25) is a genuine gem of a movie. The first time I saw GROUNDHOG DAY, I was expecting a typical Bill Murray laugh fest, but didn’t anticipate anything as completely unique and incredibly special as this film turned out to be. The best way to describe GROUNDHOG DAY is to say that it is a comic, romantic fantasy, but that is selling the movie short, because it is so much more. There is this whole metaphysical, Zen, Karma thing going on in the movie, but it never distracts one from the film’s warmly humorous center, or the hilarious moments that magically appear from Murray’s inspired comic genius.

The plot of GROUNDHOG DAY concerns a sarcastic, egotistical TV weatherman named Phil Connors (Bill Murray), who finds himself saddled with his least favorite annual assignment- covering the Groundhog Day prediction of that furry meteorologist named Punxsutawney Phil. After making his report, our TV weatherman is eager to return to Pittsburgh, but finds himself forced to spend another night in the town Punxsutawney, when a blizzard that he didn’t predict closes the roads leading out of town. Trying to make Groundhog Hog day go away as quickly as possible, Phil goes to bed early. However, when he wakes up the next morning, he discovers that it is Groundhog Hog once again and he is forced to relive the day. At first, he is confused by the situation, but when he realizes that he is the only one aware that every day is going to be Groundhog Day, Phil tries to make the most of the situation- by taking advantage of unsuspecting women. Unfortunately, the novelty soon wears off and Phil becomes increasingly desperate and turns to suicide as a way out of his eternity of Groundhog Days. While Phil’s repeated "suicides" provide the film with its most hilarious moments, Phil eventually comes to see his bizarre situation as an opportunity, instead of a curse.

GROUNDHOG DAY afforded Bill Murray the best role of his career- and he truly creates magic on the screen. As the film starts out, Murray’s character has that sarcastic edge that we have come to expect from him, but as GROUNDHOG DAY progresses, we get to see Phil Connors undergo a complete transformation, one that Murray makes one hundred percent credible. Supporting Murray is Andie MacDowell as Rita, the segment producer who accompanies Phil on his trek to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. MacDowell brings genuine warmth to her role, which makes the audience understand why Phil falls in love with his producer, after spending a near eternity of Groundhog Days with her. The cast of GROUNDHOG DAY also includes Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky and Brian Doyle-Murray. Look for director Harold Ramis in an amusing cameo. Speaking of Ramis, he directs GROUNDHOG DAY with a very light touch, which allows the material to soar, instead of bogging it down with the self consciousness that a heavy handed director would have brought to the film.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made GROUNDHOG DAY available in a special edition DVD that offers the film in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as well as being enhanced for 16:9 displays. This is a very nice looking transfer that accurately recreates the film’s ever so slightly diffuse cinematography. The image never appears soft, although newer films do look somewhat crisper than this 1993 release. Detail is very strong throughout the course of the film, including shadow detail during the film’s darker sequences. Colors are well saturated, but completely stable. Additionally, flesh tones always look appealing. Blacks are solid and the picture reproduces with smooth contrast. The film element used for the transfer has a few blemishes on it, especially during the opening credits. There are also a few instances where film grain does become noticeable. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts well concealed.

GROUNDHOG DAY is offered here with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix, although the DTS sound mix indicated on the packaging is not present. For a comedy, GROUNDHOG DAY has a good sound mix. Certainly not as aggressive as an action movie, but sound effects are well implemented across the entire soundstage at every possible opportunity. Ambient noises, crowd sounds and the hustle bustle of the Groundhog Day festivities are convincing and draw the viewer into the film’s little world. George Fenton’s music is also enhanced by the Dolby Digital remix, as are the repeated instances of the Pennsylvania Polka. Dialogue is always cleanly rendered with maximum intelligibility. The bass channel doesn’t have much to do, other than keeping the track from sounding anemic. English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s very amusingly designed interactive menus. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some very nice supplemental materials. Director Harold Ramis provides a running audio commentary that is quite entertaining and benefits form Ramis’ own comic sensibilities. Perhaps there isn’t as much production detail in the commentary as some might like, but listening to Ramis is enjoyable nonetheless. Also included on the DVD is a twenty-five minute documentary entitled The Weight of Time. Featuring film clips, outtakes and new interviews with Ramis, writer Danny Rubin, producer Trevor Albert and performers Andie MacDowell and Steven Tobolowsky, the documentary looks at how the project came together and how it changed from its initial concept. A theatrical trailer for GROUNDHOG DAY has been provided on the DVD, along with bonus trailers for IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU and PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. Closing out the supplements are filmographies for Murray, Ramis, MacDowell and Elliot.

GROUNDHOG DAY is a genuine cinematic delight that deserves a place of honor in ever DVD collection. Columbia TriStar has produced a good looking and sounding DVD that includes a fine supplemental section. If you don’t already own GROUNDHOG DAY on DVD, don’t hesitate in picking up the special edition release.


Groundhog Day (Special Edition)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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