As classic a comedy as …everything else Bill Murray was doing in the late 80s & early 90s …Groundhog Day is a movie that never gets old, ironically, and a surprising story that will warm your heart. For my money, What About Bob? is the hilarious masterpiece, which Murray did right before this one, but Groundhog Day will always have a special place in audiences’ hearts, and rightly so, because it’s about as well-made a comedy as you are likely to see, and, beyond that, it offers much more than simple laughs.
Pittsburgh weatherman Phil is an egocentric jerk, whose whole life revolves around advancing himself and putting down others. He thinks that his needs are more important than anyone else’s, and that everyone in the world is moronic and worthless. But the world has a lesson to teach him on Groundhog Day, while he’s on location in Punxsutawney, PA, and he won’t like it. When Phil wakes up each morning, it’s the same day all over again, and he can’t seem to get out of the vicious cycle, even by killing himself. He’ll have to learn how to treat others with respect and love, spending one whole day not thinking about his own happiness, if he ever wants to make it out of the loop.
This time watching Groundhog Day, I was surprised that it was less funny than I remembered, but more heartfelt. Of course the comedy is there, it’s Bill Murray basically left completely to his own devices, allowed to run wild inside this little snow globe of a plot. But it’s not just a comedy, it’s a lesson, and you really feel that sadness when Phil is trapped, and then that warmth when things begin to get better. At one point a character tells him he loves only himself, and he responds that, no, actually he hates himself, and that’s a real rough moment, a true look at what it’s like to be a narcissist. The movie does do a couple cringey things that wouldn’t feel right now; uses suicide as a joke, uses tricking women into having sex as a joke. But we do understand that movies were made under a different set of standards in the 90s; there’s really not much for us to do about it now other than be better. Anyway, Groundhog Day is fun, free, well-written, and well-executed, a real film for the ages that can be watched again and again and again and again…
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆