Groundhog Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image showed its age but looked fine given the restrictions of its era.
Sharpness seemed fine. Though the movie lacked much pop, it seemed reasonably accurate and concise, with only minor instances of softness. Jagged edges, shimmering and edge enhancement provided no concerns, and source flaws failed to mar the presentation. Grain stayed natural, so I didn’t suspect any heavy noise reduction.
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 acceptably vivid and vibrant. Black levels seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not excessively heavy. In the end, this was a positive presentation worthy of a “B”.
As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Day, it delivered a pleasant surprise. Comedies usually feature limited soundfields, and as a whole, Groundhog fit into that mold, as the mix remained 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 well for the material.
Audio quality also was 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 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 solid throughout the movie. The music demonstrated bright and vivid highs and provided rich and warm lows as it consistently seemed lively and inviting. Groundhog Day featured too limited a soundfield to merit “A” consideration, but nonetheless, I was pleased with what I heard.
How did the Blu-ray compare with the 2008 DVD? Audio seemed a little warmer and fuller, while visuals came across as tighter, cleaner and more dynamic. The restricted nature of the source meant the Blu-ray didn’t blow away the DVD, but it did provide an improvement.
We get the same extras as the DVD – and one new one. First up is an audio commentary from director Harold Ramis who offers a running, screen-specific conversation. Ramis is an 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 nice 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 remains 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 44 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, 53 seconds. These include “Phil Outside Rita’s Hotel Room” (0:16), “Pool Hall Scene” (2:27), “Phil at Bowling Alley” (0:36), “Ice Sculpture” (0:44), “Little Girl Saves Puppy” (0:48) and “Old Man Dies” (1:30). “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.
New to the Blu-ray, Needle Nose Ned’s Picture-in-Picture Track gives us additional information – occasionally. Throughout the film, actor Steven Tobolowsky pops on-screen to offer notes about the film as well as trivia questions. When he appears, Tobolowsky offers fun moments, but he shows up infrequently – really, really infrequently. The sporadic nature of Tobolowsky’s tidbits makes the PiP track borderline useless.