Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Groundhog Day

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, August 8, 1999

Chance of departure today, one hundred percent.

Special features

Trailer6

Bill Murray gets stuck reliving the same day over and over again: Groundhog’s Day in a hick town in Pennsylvania. Every morning at six o’clock he wakes up to the sound of Sonny & Cher, and every day the same things happen over and over again until he takes control.

RecommendationPurchase
DirectorHarold Ramis
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating8
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen
  • Pan and Scan

Wow, I forgot how wonderful this movie is! And it’s even better on DVD, I get to watch whatever scene I want whenever I want.

Phil Connors is a weatherman who seems to like being a weatherman, but hates the stupid trivial “specials” that weathermen have to do. Number one on his hate parade is Punxatawney Phil, in Punxatawney Pennsylvania, and the yearly Groundhog Day celebration surrounding Phil the Groundhog and whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow. Professional onscreen, Phil the Weatherman doesn’t bother to hide his contempt offscreen. In fact, he’s a total jerk about it. Perhaps best of all is the way he manages to insult people he doesn’t know without letting them in on the secret (and thus alienating a potential viewer).

When he sees Rita (Andie MacDowell) for the first time, her exuberance and upbeat nature stands in stark contrast to his wisecracking cynicism. He notices this and hides even further in his wisecracks to avoid acknowledging that he might actually like her.

It is his desired love affair with Rita that takes up most of the movie. At first, he tries to use his new “immortality” to trick her into bed. Every day he tries, and when something fails, he uses that knowledge to do better next time. And he almost succeeds, but in the end it degenerates into a more and more strident rush to say the lines just right at just the right time. It reminded me a little of David Gerrold’s “The Man Who Folded Himself”, in which a time traveler, after breaking up with the greatest woman in all time, decides to try and convince her to stay with him, but going back in time just before she leaves him: but all he ends up doing is making her leave sooner, and sooner, and sooner, every time he tries. In the end he just gives up and goes through the days dejectedly and without hope.

The best scene for me is after all this, after he’s tried to kill himself numerous ways, when he decides to tell Rita what’s happening, and proves it to her, and after a wonderful day of the two actually getting to know each other, he says, “The worst part is that tomorrow you will have forgotten all about this.” The first time he tries to kill himself (and take the damn groundhog with him), he walks up to her and asks her to remember that they “once had a very beautiful day together”, and then kisses her on the cheek. She, of course, does not remember that day at all. He’s the only one who does.

Chris Elliott’s character, Larry, comes off as an okay guy towards the beginning of the movie but doesn’t fare well towards the end: as Phil Connors becomes a nicer guy, Larry begins to look like a jerk in comparison.

Director Harold Ramis also shows up: if you’ve seen Ghostbusters, you should be able to recognize when he does.

The ending, party scene is a little out of touch with the rest of the movie, but still wonderful. (And I can certainly imagine that Phil retains an intense dislike of Sonny & Cher after all this.)

The camerawork on “Groundhog Day” really helps this movie. It is simple and smooth. The only place where it detracts is in the beginning, the switch from television to real life. It looks like they wanted a CGI transition but couldn’t get one.

This disc has one of those scene selection routines that I dislike: you only get to see four scene choices at a time, and must arrow down to the “more” button to see the next four. And then when the next four show up, your cursor is back on the number one selection, and if you want to see more you have to use the arrow to move down to the “more” button again. But in this case there’s a useful trick: the “more” button is the last button on the screen, and the arrows wrap around. So if you hit the back arrow while the cursor is on the upper left scene, you will be on top of the “more” button. This reduces the number of clicks needed to see the next set of scenes to two, which is still one too many but it beats seven!

Besides the trailer, there are no extras. But it’s a nice trailer. On the other hand, Ghostbusters has shown that Harold Ramis can do good commentary. It would’ve been nice to see one or a few of Ramis, Elliott, MacDowell, or Murray sitting down front talking about the scenes.

This is a very fun movie, and touching. It isn’t quite standard Bill Murray. If you liked Bill Murray’s performance in “Rushmore”, that might be an indication that you’ll like “Groundhog Day”. But at the very least I recommend renting this soon, and I suspect you’ll save yourself some money if you just up and buy it right off.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorHarold Ramis
ActorsBill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Spoken languagesEnglish, French, Spanish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeatureTrailer
More links

If you enjoyed Groundhog Day…

If you enjoy Bill Murray, you might also be interested in Ghostbusters.

If you enjoy Harold Ramis, you might also be interested in Ghostbusters and Heavy Metal.