Monday, February 2, 2009

Six More Weeks Of Winter?

Punxsutawney Phil is one of the hallmarks of Pennsylvania. Once a year the most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania is forcibly exhumed from his stump at Gobbler's Knob and predicts whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter. Though I wouldn't say that Phil is the "hardest" working hog in the business(That'd be his brother, Gus, Pennsylvania lottery spokes-hog), but he is the only one to have a movie framed around his annual hullabaloo: Harold Ramis's 1993 classic, Groundhog Day!

Bill Murray stars as the acerbic Pittsburgh(yeah, way to go Stillers!) weatherman Phil Connors who has big dreams of predicting the weather on a major network. Phil just cannot stand doing local puff pieces because he thinks he's above them. Unfortunately for Phil it's Groundhog
Day and the station has tasked him with covering the venerable holiday.

Phil, of course, is nonplussed by this. I mean, can you blame him? His name is Phil and he has to cover a story about a groundhog named Phil. Can you say awkward? Of course, Phil doesn't have the greatest time covering the festivities and to make matters worse a snow storm(which he DIDN'T predict) is descending on the town making it impossible to leave Punxsutawney.

Phil goes to bed that evening hoping to escape the Pennsylvania hamlet but when he wakes up he's reliving the same day over again! At first Phil is upset and shocked at this predicament, he tries to convince his producer Rita(Andie MacDowell) that he's reliving the same day. But suitably no one believes him.

After he realizes that nothing he does matters, Phil decides to take advantage of his situation. He becomes familiar with the town and it's citizens, but then he sets his sights on the one thing he can't seem to get: Rita.

Though he tries valiantly to learn everything about Rita and pretend that he loves the very same things he is unable to seal the deal. Ramis does a fantastic job of hinting at just how many times Phil has looped through the day without actually showing all of them, giving the audience just a taste of the day replaying without driving us insane along with Phil.

After not being able to bed Rita, Phil snaps and begins an exercise in suicide. Killing himself numerous times, everyday Phil wakes up from the dead as if nothing has actually happened. Eventually Phil decides to be himself and try to woo Rita without trying to bed her. It's when this happens that Phil starts to change. He becomes less self absorbed and generally nicer to everyone. He begins to better himself and learn new things.

Ramis handles the third act of the film with a deft hand, keeping it humorous but also giving it an emotional heft when Phil becomes a hero and saves numerous people throughout the town. Murray is wonderful, going from serious to funny in a moments notice without it ruining the flow of the film. It's no wonder that Murray would find work years later in such serious works as Lost In Translation and while he's still primarily a comedic actor, it's nice to see his flexibility in this film and others.

Groundhog Day is a funny and sometimes moving classic '90s comedy. Although this type of story has been done many times since(The X-Files and Stargate SG-1 immediately come to mind), Groundhog Day remains as engaging and hilarious as it was the day it was released. Besides, what other movie can claim to have BOTH Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliot in starring roles and make them tolerable? That's right. No other movie.

Gus the groundhog says: "Though Groundhog Day focuses on my obnoxious brother's holiday, it's STILL the bee's knees!"

You heard it here, folks. Gus likes it. It's a winner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i do remember your obsession with Gus.

and now i'm thinking wistfully about Ghostbusters.

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