Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day on Blu-ray Disc

Let's do the Time Warp Again...

Bill Murray is a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman at the beginning of this remarkably intelligent Harold Ramis film that's as much a touching and intelligent drama as the screwball comedy you'd think it is.

Murray is Phil Connors, a real prima donna with delusions of grandeur. It's Bill Murray at his most typical and when he's assigned to cover Groundhog Day festivities in nearby Punxsatawney, for what seems to him the zillionth time, he's determined to have as miserable a time as possible - and to make everyone else's experience just as bad.

So he and his cameraman (Chris Elliott) and new producer (Andie MacDowell) head up there in a TV station van the day before the event, to ensure they're up bright-eyed and bushy tailed in time to catch the early morning bash and its bright-eyed and bushy tailed star.

The next morning dawns normally and Phil knocks off his standups quickly and professionally, with no extra effort given or considered. But when they start heading back to Pittsburgh they're stopped by a blizzard and must spend the night in the small town and with the small town people Phil chooses to look down upon as hicks.

Next morning dawns suspiciously like the previous one - and it doesn't take Phil long to realize that, much to his horror and chagrin, he's back at Groundhog Day and is living the experience over again. No one else is aware of this time warp, but Phil as he finds himself experiencing the previous day all over again.

And again, and again and again. He doesn't know why, but he's living the same day again and again, and it appers there's nothing he can do about it.

So he decides to exploit it. Every day he learns a little more about those around him and he uses that knowledge to get things - whether it be sex, money, or just a few jollies. We get to see him go through initial panic at the situation, to acceptance, to flippancy, to - well, watch for yourself to see how Phil grows as the movie unfolds.

Murray is terrific as Phil. Though we've never been big fans of his typically smug character it's perfectly suited for this role and Murray plays it very well indeed. In fact, we can't think of anyone who could have done it better. MacDowell's character is classy and graceful, as is she - far too good for Murray's Phil, at least the Phil we love to hate at the movie's beginning. Chris Elliott is a good straight man for Murray and the rest of the supporting cast is great as well - and it's nice to see Robin Duke of SCTV again.

Director/co-producer/co-writer Ramis (also an SCTV alumnus) has fashioned a movie that's funny and poignant at the same time, kind of "A Christmas Carol" for the 1990's and we enjoyed the film a lot more than we thought we would, even though we're longtime fans of Ramis.

Sony Pictures has put together a pretty good Blu-ray for the movie, though there aren't as many extras as with some discs. But we're more interested in a good presentation of the movie, anyway, so aren't too disappointed.

The film itself is presented in 1080p at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and the picture quality is generally very good, with excellent color and detail. There's quite a bit of grain in places, and the movie lacks some of that "depth" that makes a good BD leap off the screen at you. But overall, it's very pleasing.

The audio is Dolby TrueHD and it's also top notch. The music sounds great and, though there isn't a huge amount of surround information, the soundtrack on the whole fills the room most satisfyingly. Dialogue is clean and clear.

The extras start with a running commentary featuring the always witty Ramis. There's also a very interesting documentary called "The Weight of Time" that's really a "Making Of" feature, a "Needle Nose Ned's Picture in Picture track," an interview with director Ramis, some deleted scenes and "The Study of Groundhogs: a Real Life Look at Marmots," for the nature lovers among us.

Groundhog Day, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
101 min. 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby TrueHD
Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Produced by Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis
Written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, Directed by Harold Ramis

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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