(director/writer: Harold Ramis; screenwriter: from a story by Danny Rubin/Danny Rubin; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Pembroke J. Herring; music: George Fenton; cast: Bill Murray (Phil Connors), Andie McDowell (Rita), Chris Elliott (Larry), Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Robin Duke (Doris), Harold Ramis (Neurologist), Angela Paton (Mrs. Lancaster); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Trevor Albert/Harold Ramis; Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment; 1993)
“Reminds one of Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack”/”Analyze This”/”Bedazzled”) deftly, with a light touch, directs and co-writes with Danny Rubin this witty time warp rom comedy-fantasy, that’s based on a story by Rubin.The question asked, What if there’s no tomorrow?, serves as the film’s innovative premise. It has its grumpy protagonist living the last day of his life over and over again until he gets it right, as it’s curious to know what he would do to change the rut he’s in.
On February 2, 1992, the Pittsburgh Channel 9 team of self-centered weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), the sweet romantic producer Rita (Andie McDowell), and the cheerful everyman cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) are sent on an annual assignment that Phil especially detests, the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA (shot in Woodstock, Illinois), where the citizens await at Gobbler’s Knob for the appearance of Punxsutawney Phil. He’s the groundhog who can supposedly predict if spring will come early or late, depending if he sees his own shadow or not.
Under strange Twilight Zone circumstances Phil finishes his duties and finds himself trapped in dreaded Punxsutawney due to an unexpected snow storm and is forced into reliving his day there over and over again–even if he succeeds in killing himself. The day always begins at 6 A.M., to the alarm going off and the radio blaring out Bob Dylan singing “I Got You Babe.” The narrative has the same 24 hours keep repeating, but each time with a different twist until at last Phil becomes a better person and is sprung from his trapped karmic existence.
It concludes on the feel-good note that reminds one of Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. When today is tomorrow again for the rehabilitated Phil, things become different for the once cynical uncaring weatherman.
Credit for pulling off such sentimental hogwash goes to the efficacy of the story, the efforts of the likable Murray (getting away with being a smug and smarmy character, but still one the audience cares about) and that the caring McDowell makes for a likable romantic interest. A few of the sketches work better than others, with my favorite being Murray’s cunning way about learning everything about the hottie local Nancy (Marita Geraghty) to trick her into a roll in the sack. My least favorite sketch has McDowell outbidding other ladies at an auction to own Murray for a day (nothing funny or poignant about that).
REVIEWED ON 4/9/2011 GRADE: B