Groundhog Day (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

When people assemble their lists of great film comedies, this rarely appears on the list. It should.

It has absolutely everything a great comedy should have.

First, it's funny. Bill Murray is the master of comic insincerity and he plays it to the hilt in this movie. He is a weatherman who is to Ground Hog Day as Ebenezer Scrooge is to Christmas. Fate gets fed up with his attitude and forces him to relive that day until he gets it right.


Second, it's deep. He doesn't get it right the first time, or perhaps for years. He does what any human would do in the situation. Early on, he uses his knowledge of that day to play God. Then, he uses it to have fun and get women. Then, he is filled with despair and tries to end it with his own death. Then, after trying every crass and immature thing he can think of, he finally realizes that he can actually enjoy his fate if he is reliving a great day, so he makes it so. He makes himself a better person, but the transformation happens only after many missteps. Exactly what would happen to anybody really caught in the situation.

Third, it has virtually no down time. It starts out funny, stays funny throughout.

And how many screwballs comedies do you know in which the lead character quotes Chekhov and recites French poetry? Both to good effect (One sincere and touching, the other insincere beyond my ability to describe.) The whole effect of the movie is so captivating that it has that very special effect that only great movies have - to transport you inside their world, so that you lose all sense of the place you occupy or the time of day in the "real" world.

A few notes:

  • Although you'd never know for a minute that it wasn't filmed in Pennsylvania, the movie was actually shot in Woodstock, Illinois, because the real Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania wasn't sufficiently photogenic.
  • Murray worked with a real 22 pound groundhog named Scooter. Murray was afraid that Scooter would bite him, and he was right.
  • Screenwriter Danny Rubin never sold another original screenplay and never worked on another comedy. He adapted two novels to the screen, but neither of those movies was any good, and neither was a comedy. (SFW and Hear No Evil). He has no credits at all after 1995. He is now teaching at the College of Santa Fe, in New Mexico, and is probably still searching for the Muse that possessed him as he wrote this film.
  • Rubin had plenty of help. Director Harold Ramis is also credited as a writer, and is known as a collaborative writer/director. Ramis, a member of the original SCTV cast, wrote or co-wrote Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Animal House. Although Bill Murray is not credited as a writer, you can safely bet that he wrote most of his own dialogue, as he often does.


I regret to say that I can only score the movie 99, because Andie Macdowell kept her clothes on. With Andie naked, I wouldn't object if you called it the greatest comedy ever made, or even the single greatest achievement in the history of humanity, edging out the Pieta, the discovery of fire, and the Ronco Pocket Fisherman.

It is now rated in the Top 250 by IMDb, you guys rated it the number two comedy of the 90's. (It would have been #3, except we put South Park in a separate category). All honors well deserved. I don't know whether I'd vote for this or South Park for "best comedy of the 90's". Depends on what Brian Boitano would do.

A tip of the derby to our British cousins. 

The American film academy has the following symptoms

  • Inability to identify a good movie if it is a comedy.
  • Complete inability to equate humor with quality. Thus, the Oscar nominations can occasionally go to comedies, but only if they are not funny. If a comedy is actually funny, it is disqualified. (Annie Hall was an exception, and even that is actually not one of Woody's funnier movies). The kinds of comedies that do get nominated may still be comedic in the true Aristotelean sense, but Aristotle doesn't have a web page. And if he did, you can bet it wouldn't be that funny.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version on the other side

  • no features except a trailer

BAFTA, the British academy, does not have Oscar disease. Despite the contrary evidence in their apparent admiration for Mr Bean, the British do know the value of humor, and how difficult it is to be funny. They gave the award for Best Original Screenplay to Groundhog Day instead of the oh-so-serious The Piano. Predictably, the American academy didn't even nominate Groundhog Day. Silly buggers. It's just a terrific comedy. It should have won a whole bunch of additional awards. Why it did not is a mystery.

Murray is terrific, not just funny, but consistent in his creation of this character, and even romantic in the right spots. Andie MacDowell is radiant and is cast perfectly. The supporting players are all spot-on.

Three years ago, I wrote one of the first IMDb comments on this film, noting how dramatically underrated it was. Since then, the movie has crept up to the top 250 of all time, thereby making me a liar! I've never been so pleased to be wrong.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars and a bit more. Maltin 3/4, Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.7, the equivalent of four stars, and in the top 250 of all time.
  • With their dollars ... a solid hit. $70 million on a $14 milion budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is an A-. One of the five best comedies of the 90's, perhaps one of the best ever made.

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