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SONY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Harold Ramis
Cast:
Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Marita Geraghty, Angela Paton, Rick Ducommun, Rick Overton
Writing Credits:
Danny Rubin (and story), Harold Ramis

Tagline:
He's having the worst day of his life ... over, and over ...

Synopsis:
Bill Murray is at his wry, wisecracking best in this riotous romantic comedy about a weatherman caught in a personal time warp on the worst day of his life.

Teamed with a relentlessly cheerful producer (Andie McDowell) and a smart-aleck cameraman (Chris Elliott), TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is sent to Pumssutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. After a surprise blizzard traps him in small-town hell, things get even worse; Phil wakes the next morning to find it's Groundhog Day all over again ... and again ... and again.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$14.600 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$70.906 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Portuguese

Runtime:
116 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 1/29/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Harold Ramis
• “The Weight of Time” Documentary
• “A Different Day: An Interview With Harold Ramis” Featurette
• “The Study of Groundhogs: A Real-Life Look at Marmots” Featurette
• Six Deleted Scenes
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Groundhog Day: 15th Anniversary Edition (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 11, 2008)

Though not Bill Murray’s best flick overall, 1993’s Groundhog Day works nicely as a whole, and it’s a movie that holds up very well over repeated viewings. Considering the film’s plot, the last statement may sound somewhat facetious, but such meaning is unintentional.

Groundhog tells the story of popular Pittsburgh TV weatherman Phil Connors (Murray). Phil’s a tremendously self-absorbed and superficial guy. Against his desires, he gets sent to Punxsutawney PA for their famed annual Groundhog Day festival. This is his fourth visit in as many years to the quaint little burg, and Phil’s none too happy to go along with cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) and attractive new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) for more of the same old thing.

When a blizzard forces Phil to stay in Punxsutawney for an extra night, he thinks his life can get no worse. He’s wrong, as he discovers the next morning. Phil’s life has been put on hold in an apparently unstoppable loop; everyday, he repeats February 2nd.

Groundhog follows Phil’s experiences in this Neverland of unending repetition. While we see his interactions with many denizens of Punxsutawney, the emphasis falls upon his feelings toward Rita. He runs the gamut as the movie inevitably has Phil discover some depth beneath his superficial veneer and allows him to eventually find a way out of his trap.

In Groundhog Day, Murray plays a role rather similar to the Eighties-Ebenezer he performed in 1988’s Scrooged. This is another self-absorbed and semi-heartless personality forced by supernatural means to reexamine his life and his methods. Honestly, there’s little to the essence of Groundhog that we haven’t seen many times in the past.

However, that shouldn’t be viewed as a negative, for Groundhog executes the semi-stale plot with such panache and cleverness that it becomes fresh again. Much of the credit goes to Murray. He offers a nicely deft and lively performance as Phil and makes his transformation quite smooth and believable.

His work seems especially impressive when you discover the manner in which the film was shot. Much of Groundhog shows the same events repeated many times; all the participants maintain the same attitudes except for Phil, who varies dependent on his current state of mind. These were filmed back to back, which meant that Murray had to go through many different attitudes in a short order. Granted, actors always have to alter their emotional states since very few movies are shot in order, but this took that tendency to an extreme. Murray needed to bop back and forth with intense frequency. He does this terrifically and helps make the movie quite effective.

However, Murray didn’t work in a vacuum, and the rest of the cast and crew clearly contribute as well. Director Harold Ramis has his soppy tendencies, but he keeps the pacing brisk and fresh and doesn’t linger too long on the more sentimental moments. Ramis maintains the appropriate focus on the characters and not the gimmicks, which ensures its success. A movie like this easily could have degenerated into a novelty, but Groundhog stayed focused on the character arc and profited for it.

The supporting cast also allowed Murray to succeed. MacDowell offered a nicely endearing and genuine presence in a fairly thankless role. Rita easily could have appeared sappy but MacDowell made her warm and likable. On the more humorous side, Stephen Tobolowsky ran with his small role of Phil’s old high school classmate; he went in a rather broad direction, but it worked and made the part surprisingly memorable.

Groundhog Day easily could have fallen flat, but the nimble telling of the tale allowed it to prosper. From some fine acting and a light, dexterous examination of an interesting concept, the movie sagged slightly at times, but it generally seemed fun and winning. Groundhog Day doesn’t stand as the best Bill Murray film, but it remains near the top of that list.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

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

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main