Teamed with a relentlessly cheery producer and a smart-aleck cameraman, TV weatherman Phil Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. But on his way out of town, Phil is caught in a giant blizzard, which he failed to predict, and finds himself in small town hell. Just when things couldn't get worse, Phil wakes up the next morning to find it's Groundhog Day all over again... and again... and again.
It's rare to find a Hollywood romantic comedy that's neither cloying nor cliched, let alone one that has something weighty to say about the general state of our shared humanity. Which is why 'Groundhog Day' was such a sleeper, it's a delightful little parable that's far smarter, wittier and daring than one would expect. Here's a romance that's not only about two believable, three-dimensional people finding themselves through love, but learning valuable truths about human nature that we can all relate to.
In perhaps his most winsome and likeable role, Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a local Pittsburgh weatherman with quiet ambitions to make it to a "real" news network. During his latest gig in chilly Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he finds himself typically abrasive and sarcastic, going through his usual motions why torturing his long-suffering assistant and crew, particularly the insistently cheerful producer Rita (Andie MacDowell). Then, in a magical occurrence, he finds himself in some sort of time warp -- forced to wake up and relive the same day, over and over. Much to even Phil's surprise, what initially appears to be a curse becomes a blessing in disguise, as he begins to woo Rita, and realize that if he's to become a better person, he's going to have to learn life's hard lessons, one day (the same day) at a time.
'Groundhog Day' is so simple, yet ripe with possibilities, that it's amazing no one thought of it sooner. Ramis, working off of a well-structured and insightful script by Danny Rubin, plays up both the physical comedy of Phil's predicament as well as the basic existential dilemma at its core. There are many themes and messages to be found in the film, which is what remains so wonderful about revisiting it. Though 'Groundhog Day' can be slightly sentimental at times, this is one of those films that truly does stand up to repeated viewings, and rewards you every time by revealing something new.
Murray and MacDowell (an actress I've never particularly warmed to) are also pitch perfect. Murray may no longer enjoy the lovable public persona he once did, but here he taps perfectly into Connors' early rage and unhappiness at life (which manifests itself with biting, mean-spirited sarcasm), and slowly softens it as the film progresses with great nuance. And MacDowell holds her own against the formidable Murray, revealing both a toughness and vulnerability rarely seen in on-screen romantic females (who are usually either pawns in conventional chick flick plots, or worse, mere idealized conquests for schlubby losers). Watching their feelings bloom throughout the course of the same day, over and over, is one of 'Groundhog Day's biggest charms.
Like the best movies, the magic of 'Groundhog Day' is ultimately impossible to dissect. This is one of those films that may have its share of flaws, but it resonates because all of the elements just seem to fit together organically without effort. The script, direction and performances all gel, and the film's easy charm and innate intelligence shine brightly throughout. 'Groundhog Day' is certainly one of the most adult and perceptive romantic comedies to come out of Hollywood in recent memory, and if just for that, it's a minor miracle.
'Groundhog Day' receives a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1), minted from a new high-def master. Certainly, the film has never looked better, though the image remains somewhat hampered by the limitations of its source.
'Groundhog Day' is now 16 years-old, but it looks quite good. The print appears soft, but otherwise boasts nice colors and solid blacks. The film has a very natural look, with nice contrast and a fair amount of apparent detail. Shadow delineation isn't superior, but it's adequate for the material. Keeping 'Groundhog Day' from really popping is the flatness of the image, with little appreciable depth. Still, this is a cut above the standard DVD. Lastly, there are no real compression issues to speak of. 'Groundhog Day' looks quite pleasing.
Sony provides Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround tracks (48kHz/16-bit) for 'Groundhog Day,' in English, French, and Portuguese. The film doesn't benefit all that much from the high-res upgrade.
There is little going on in 'Groundhog Day' in terms of surround activity. Aside from a few outdoor scenes and music, the rears are largely silent. This is a pretty well-recorded mix for its age, however, with fairly wide dynamic range and adequate low bass. Dialogue is the star of the show, and always sounds clear, intelligible, and well-directed to the center channel (aside from the rare vocal stereo/surround effect). 'Groundhog Day' doesn't sound all that much better on Blu-ray than on DVD, but it's fine for what it is.
This Blu-ray carries over the same extras found on the previous standard DVD special edition, with nothing lost in the conversion. All video is 480i/MPEG-2 only.
'Groundhog Day' is not only a perfectly lovely romantic comedy, but it's the rare Hollywood film that has something meaningful and perceptive to say about our humanity amid the passing of time. This Blu-ray is quite nice, too, with good video and audio, and a host of extras and exclusives. Fans need not hesitate to pick up this modern classic on Blu-ray.