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Groundhog Day, Special Edition, on DVD

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 it is 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 station van the day before, so they can be up bright-eyed and bushy tailed in time to catch the early morning bash nd its bright-eyed and bushy tailed star.

The next morning dawns normally and Phil knocks off his standups quickly and professionally, but with no extra effort given. 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 on so much.

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 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 over and over again. And 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 is classy and graceful, 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.

Director/co-producer/co-writer Ramis 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.

Columbia Tristar has put together a pretty good Special Edition package for the movie, though there aren't as many extras as with some "SE" DVD's. The film itself features digitally mastered anamorphic widescreen video (16x9 TV compatible) and the picture quality is first rate, with great color and detail. The audio, which is supposed to offer the choice of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel surround (but which only offers Dolby Digital), is 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.

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, some production notes inside the liner (we wish all DVD's would have these), trailers, and filmographies.

Not a lot of extras, but at least they're pretty substantive - something we can't say about many of these enhanced DVD's.

Groundhog Day, the Special Edition, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
101 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 Surround
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


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Updated May 13, 2006