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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> May 2000 >> Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
May 2000
IMDB Name:
Groundhog Day (1993)
Harold Ramis
comedy, romance
MPAA Rating:

Oily Charm

The secret of Bill Murray's success in Groundhog Day is his ability to exude just the right amount of insincere charm. He is utterly believable as despicable characters like egomaniacal weatherman Phil Connors, bowling champ Ernie McCracken in Kingpin, or shifty lawyer Ken Bowden in Wild Things. Groundhog Day places Murray at center stage, and after making him a little evil, has a lot of time to make him wonderful. Even as Phil gets better and better at getting through the day, Murray still lets the undercurrent of the con artist peek through.


The lesser roles in Groundhog Day are filled magnificently. Andie MacDowell is perfect as a worthy foil for Murray's exploits and as an object of desire. Chris Elliott, of "Get a Life" and There's Something About Mary, is in one of his least irksome incarnations as Phil's cameraman. Stephen Tobolowsky is wonderfully annoying as high school contemporary Ned Ryerson. His over-the-top treatment of the different passes are great fun. Improbably enough, Tobolowsky played an evil henchman in the atrocious Glimmer Man a few years later. The rest of Punxatawney's people are as much fun, including Bill Murray's brother, Brian Doyle-Murray as the town mayor, Robin Duke as Doris, and Marita Geraghty as Nancy. Also, watch for the cameo by director Harold Ramis as the neurologist.


Groundhog Day neatly sidesteps the mechanics or motivations of its time bending premise. We get an idea of the lack of consequences of Phil's actions through Phil's own experimentation, but no great trick is ever revealed. Fortunately, this is a movie, and some suspension of disbelief comes with the territory. However, Groundhog Day is enjoyable enough to be watched again and again, and that opens the door for the kind of observations that uncover continuity goofs. The day that Phil seems to be rushing through things, how is everyone still in position to greet him, even though he's ahead of schedule? Since most events of the day seem to be keyed to a specific time, as evidenced by the timing necessary to catch the kid falling from the tree, Phil's presence should not change where everyone else is, as it would in The Truman Show. There is also the slight issue with the long, philosophical speech Phil delivers for the camera on the last iteration. Why is everyone, even reporters from competing stations, listening to him? Surely anything of reasonable length for American television news would be short enough that it would be over before anyone else would catch on.

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