Friday, August 6, 2010

Day Thirty-Five: Groundhog Day

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #159
Year: 1993
Director: Harold Ramis
Starring: Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell

It's shocking to me that it took me until now to finally see Groundhog Day, considering the fact that there was a well-worn copy of the VHS tape in my house ever since it was released. It's one of my old man's favorite movies, and I always kind of associated it with being shitty for that reason – his other favorite movies, mind you, are Multiplicity and Fools Rush In. When I saw that it was on the IMDb Top 250, though, I figured he must have had a lapse of judgment and accidentally decided to like a good movie. Even so, the fact that a mid-'90s Bill Murray comedy, regardless of existential bent, made the IMDb Top 250 is rather jarring. Upon actually watching the movie, my skepticism was validated. If Groundhog Day has an all-time classic reputation, then it's highly overrated.

Unfortunately, Groundhog Day isn't a particularly impressive movie. The concept is novel: A cynical weatherman played impeccably by Bill Murray is forced to relive Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every single day. He learns how to ice sculpt and play piano, he spends countless days trying to impress his producer (Andie MacDowell), he kills himself over and over again, he commits crimes, and he does generally anything he wants to do to kill time since he'll continue to come back the next morning, with Sonny and Cher's "I've Got You, Babe" playing on his clock radio at 6 a.m. The joy of this movie is watching all the things that Murray does once he realizes that he has to keep reliving Groundhog Day. Once you get past the initial horror of it, you can start to enjoy it, and he spends hundreds of Groundhog Days doing just that, and vicariously punching an obnoxious insurance salesman in the face and making a beautiful Andie MacDowell fall in love with you through Bill Murray is exhilirating enough.

But the film ends up being a one trick pony, and without the surface-level fantasy of it all, the message reveals itself as a muddled one, and the ending is unsatisfying. SPOILER ALERT, AND ALSO A QUESTION FOR MY COMMENTERS: So, like, he had to help every single person in Punxsutawney in one day so he could get to the next day? Is that even what happened? Isn't that arbitrary? And unnecessarily difficult? Didn't he just help all of those people so he could finally move on to the next day and get the girl, and if so, doesn't that make him just as selfish as he was all along? I need answers, people!

The Good: Murray has a lot of fun with the role and it's good for plenty of laughs.

The Bad: The ending is both horrendously rushed and deeply unsatisfying.

The Skinny: Not sure how it wound up so high on the list, but I don't think it should be on it at all.


  1. Well, I'm done with this blog. Sorry, I don't like to say people "don't get" a film, but you seriously are trying to work out the mechanics of the end of groundhog day? Why aren't you so concerned with how the time loop starts in the first place? I mean, even if "helping everyone in Punxsutawney" was what freed him, that's still more of an explanation than the one the film gives you for how it started in the first place, which I will summarize in the next two lines of this post.

    Spoiler! They tell you nothing! End Spoiler!

    And if you really want an answer, it's nothing more complicated than that he realized how much of a selfish jerk he was, and when he started learning, growing, and living for other people, he was free. It's nothing more complicated than that.

    So hey, I'm out. I hope you learn to understand films by the time you get through this, because you don't have it yet.

  2. I've always thought that you suspend your disbelief to the point that is acceptable and that a given film's universe makes possible, which allows for the time loop, since that's literally the entire movie. Since they got into it, though, they owe it to us to explain his way out of it. That's just my opinion. I'm sure you believe that because I don't understand films THE SAME WAY YOU UNDERSTAND THEM, I don't understand them at all, but I don't really see it that way. I think you're pretty tied up in your delusions of objectivity for a medium that should be at least somewhat subjective. Do you think everyone gets the same thing out of every movie? Why would we waste our time watching them, writing about them, reading about them, and discussing them with friends if we all got the same thing out of them? We would just leave a theater and never think about what we just saw ever again, because it would be superfluous. I don't want to live that way. So yes, I do think Groundhog Day owes us more of an explanation for the way he gets out of the time loop, because it's completely arbitrary that he would be freed on the day he was of all days when he understood "the secret" long before. I still "got it"; that is, I still understood why he was allowed to leave Groundhog Day at the end of the movie and not when he was throwing himself in front of buses, but there was no concrete reason why, and that bugged me.

    But you'll never read this because you quit on me, so whaaaaaaaaatever.

  3. This is one of the most over-rated movies I've ever seen. It's a simplistic (sometimes just stupid) comedy at best.
    I hated the ending as well.
    Should NOT be on the list.

  4. Don't know about should or should not be on the list, but for me it is a very entertaining movie. It has made me think - what would I do and compare to Bill.
    I guess not a GREAT movie, but an interesting comedy for sure.
    The Groundhog Day 8/10

  5. The only I have to say is the movie was entertaining but, I don't think it should be on the list.