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Groundhog Day

(Harold Ramis, USA, 1993)


 


Despite the fact that drama is regularly accorded more respectability and gravity than comedy in our culture, Groundhog Day is a not only a lively and surprising comic vehicle for the great Bill Murray, but also one of the best and most satisfying pop films of the '90s.

Few comedies are as cleverly and intricately scripted as this. The basic idea is simple: Murray, playing a grouchy television weatherman, discovers to his horror that he is living the same day of his life over and over again. And it is a day that he happens to be spending in a hick town, with a producer (Andie MacDowell) whom he desires, but cannot win.

In a fine tradition of supernatural tales, Groundhog Day never bothers advancing a rational explanation for its bizarre premise. But, once underway, no aspect of this eternal recurrence is left unexplored by director Harold Ramis and co-writer Danny Rubin. Unlike more conventional Hollywood fantasies (such as the Back to the Future series), events occur suddenly, without laborious plot set-ups.

Best of all, the film works through all the diverse moods and musings prompted by the premise, and orders them in a perfectly persuasive way. Many films have tried to emulate the magical, uplifting qualities of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946); Groundhog Day comes as close as any movie is likely to get these days, because it plumbs both the darkness and the charm of the Bill Murray persona.

MORE Ramis: Analyze This, Analyze That, Bedazzled

MORE Bill Murray: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Broken Flowers

© Adrian Martin December 1993


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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