Groundhog Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very few concerns occurred during this very good transfer.
Sharpness seemed consistently fine. The movie remained nicely crisp and detailed at all time. I never saw any signs of softness or fuzziness as the film always seemed distinct and accurate. Jagged edges, shimmering and edge enhancement provided no concerns, and source flaws were virtually absent. A few shots seemed a little grainy, and a saw a speckle or two, but overall the movie appeared clean.
For the most part, colors looked positive. Skin tones occasionally came across as somewhat reddish, and a few interiors showed slightly muddy hues, but usually I found the colors to seem nicely vivid and vibrant. They mostly appeared accurate and rich, with no signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not excessively heavy. In the end, this was a strong presentation that narrowly fell below “A” level.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Comedies usually feature very limited soundfields, and as a whole, Groundhog fit into that mold. The mix remained fairly heavily oriented toward the forward channels. In the front, I heard pretty solid stereo separation, however, as both music and effects seemed nicely delineated and spaced appropriately. Elements blended together cleanly and they moved from channel to channel in a smooth and natural way. The score was definitely a highlight, as it seemed broad and engaging.
In regard to the surrounds, they mainly offered general reinforcement of the forward spectrum, but they managed to add a nice layer of ambience to the package. The music became quite involving at times and seemed warm and reasonably active. The outdoors “Pennsylvania Polka” bits were the highlights in that regard, as they even showed some minor split-surround usage; the right rear channel appropriately dominated the proceedings at that time, which allowed us to feel more like a part of the setting. Effects seemed a little more general, though they still bolstered the main track well, and they also offered a modicum of stereo audio in the rear; for example, at times I heard cars go from front to one of the surround channels. The soundfield didn’t excel, but it worked very well for the material.
Audio quality also seemed solid. I heard a smidgen of edginess to a little of the speech, but that only occurred on a couple of occasions. Otherwise, the dialogue sounded nicely natural and distinct, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and accurate, with no signs of distortion or other problems. They also boasted a nice punch when appropriate, as the mix offered good low-end reproduction.
Bass response came to the fore during the track’s strongest elements, those that related to music. The score and various songs sounded absolutely terrific throughout the movie. The music demonstrated bright and vivid highs and provided rich and warm lows as it consistently seemed very lively and inviting. Groundhog Day featured too limited a soundfield to merit “A” consideration, but nonetheless, I was exceedingly pleased with what I heard.
How did the picture and audio of this “15th Anniversary Edition” compare with those of the 2002 Special Edition? Both offered the same solid 5.1 soundtracks, but the visuals improved for the 2008 DVD. That surprised me; the case didn’t tout a new transfer, so I expected the same decent but unexceptional one from 2002.
However, that’s not what I got. The main change came from the lack of source flaws. While the 2002 release wasn’t terribly messy, it seemed dirtier than I’d expect from a pretty recent movie. The 2008 disc almost totally eliminated those concerns. I thought it also looked a little more vivid as well. The 2008 disc offered a nice upgrade in terms of visuals.
This “15th Anniversary” release of Groundhog Day combines most of the extras from the 2002 SE along with some new ones. I’ll mark pieces exclusive to this set with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, that means the component already appeared on the 2002 DVD.
First up is an audio commentary from director Harold Ramis who offers a running, screen-specific conversation. Ramis is a definite audio commentary veteran, and this piece fits in with those other chats. Ramis always comes across as moderately engaging but not consistently interesting, and that tone shows up during Groundhog Day.
On the positive side, Ramis shows a nicely comedic bent at times as he jokes about some events from the set. In addition, he adds some details about the production such as changes made to the script, working with the actors, and challenges on location. His tone remains light as he covers some moderately interesting topics at times.
However, this is a fairly spotty track. As with his other commentaries, Ramis lets more than a few empty spaces pass, and he occasionally does little more than tell us the names of actors and describe the action on screen. This tendency definitely intensifies during the film’s second half; Ramis still offers some decent information, but he often just quotes lines and lets many parts pass without remark. Ramis provides a reasonably interesting commentary at times, but he doesn’t make it a consistently engrossing affair, and it suffers from too much filler and dead air.
In addition, we get a documentary about the film. Entitled The Weight of Time, this program runs for 24 minutes and 40 seconds as it mainly mixes film clips and interviews with participants. We hear from director Ramis, producer Trevor Albert, screenwriter Danny Rubin, and actors Andie MacDowell and Stephen Tobolowsky. In addition, we find a few outtakes from the set; though brief, those offer some of the best parts of the program as we see snippets of Murray as he clowns before the camera.
As a whole, “Weight” is a reasonably entertaining program, but I can’t call it a great piece. At times it covers alterations made to the script, continuity issues, topics related to the location, the greatness of Bill Murray, and the spiritual implications of the story. The documentary moves at a decent rate and it always seems fairly interesting, but it never rises above that level. I think it’s watchable but fairly superficial, and it doesn’t offer enough depth. For example, we learn a little about continuity challenges, but considering the nature of the film, this should have been a major topic. All in all, “Weight” seems like a good piece but not one that is terribly memorable.
Two featurettes follow. *A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis gives us a nine-minute and 58-second chat with the director. He discusses the film’s success and legacy as well as some notes about casting and the flick’s production. A few of Ramis’s details repeat from the commentary, but he throws out enough fresh info to make the chat worthwhile.
Next comes the six-minute and 24-second *The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life Look at Marmots. It presents remarks from UCLA Associate Professor of Biology Dan Blumstein and University of Kansas Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ken Armitage. They tell us a little about groundhogs and their lives. We get a passable overview of the species from this quick take on them.
Six *Deleted Scenes fill a total of five minutes, 44 seconds. These include “Phil Outside Rita’s Hotel Room” (0:16), “Pool Hall Scene” (2:19), “Phil at Bowling Alley” (0:28), “Ice Sculpture” (0:36), “Little Girl Saves Puppy” (0:40) and “Old Man Dies” (1:23). “Hotel” is so insubstantial and useless I’m surprised they included it here; it adds nothing. The other five are more interesting, and usually pretty entertaining in their own right. So why didn’t they make the final cut? I’d guess they were viewed as redundant. They all show more of Phil as he demonstrates the skills he learns as he goes through numerous Groundhog Days, so while they’re fun, we already see enough similar scenes to make these less useful.
A few ads materialize in the *Previews area. It offers promos for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Meatballs and Season One of Damages.
Does this “15th Anniversary” DVD drop anything from the 2002 release? Yup. It loses the Groundhog trailer as well as filmographies and some production notes in the set’s booklet. None of these are major, but they should have reappeared here. The trailer is the biggest loss.
Years after its release, Groundhog Day remains one of Bill Murray’s finest films. It’s a charming and clever piece that offers a consistently entertaining program, largely due to the performance of its star. The DVD offers very good picture plus surprisingly robust audio and a mix of reasonably interesting supplements.
In terms of recommendations, one becomes easy. Folks who don’t already own either of the prior Groundhog Day DVDs should snag this 15th Anniversary release, as it’s the best of the bunch. If you only have the old bare-bones disc, get this one as well.
If you own the 2002 Special Edition, I’d still recommend the 2008 release, though not as whole-heartedly. The 15th Anniversary discs adds a few decent extras; it doesn’t pour own the supplements, but it presents a smattering of nice elements unique to this set. The bigger attraction comes from the improved transfer, though, as the 15th Anniversary DVD looks noticeably better than its 2002 predecessor. I don’t know if this is a “night and day” difference worthy of a fresh purchase, but I think anyone who upgrades to the 2008 disc will be happy they did so.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of GROUNDHOG DAY