Groundhog Day was released on February 12, 1993. Why it wasn’t release ten days earlier is one of the criticisms I have about this movie. The others are that it wasn’t filmed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and finally, that director Harold Ramis felt it wasn’t necessary to use the real Punxsutawney Phil to star in his production. Other than those shortcomings, this film is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I felt that way the first time I saw it, and after my tenth (a guess) viewing, my appreciation for this movie has only increased.
In an hour and forty-one minutes, this film tells the tale of Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, an obnoxious, self-centered weatherman from a Pittsburgh television station. He is sent to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney with producer Rita Hanson, played by Andie MacDowell, and Larry the cameraman, played by Chris Elliott, to tape a piece about Punxsutawney Phil. As the alarm clock moves from 5:59 to 6:00 a.m. on February 2, (Groundhog Day), Phil Connors awakens to Sonny and Cher singing “I got You Babe” and starts his day. He does the assignment in a less-than-pleasant manner, and for reasons beyond his control, he ends up staying at the same boarding house as the night before. In what appears to be the next morning, the alarm clock shows it turning to 6:00 a.m. and again Phil waking to “I Got You Babe.” It doesn’t take Phil long to realize that this is not February 3, but, in fact, it’s Groundhog Day, all over again.
Phil’s initial dilemma is that he is the only one in the world that knows that this day is a do-over. He knows it would sound crazy to tell anyone that this day has happened before, so Mr. Connors gets used to the fact that he must live February 2nd over and over again.
Every day he wakes up with Sonny and Cher on the radio at 6:00 a.m. followed by a walk to Gobbler’s Knob to tape his report with Rita and Larry. It’s Phil’s variations to his morning routine and how he spends the rest of his day that keeps you interested and in stiches.
His initial fear of being trapped in this time warp is followed by a cynical joy that comes from realizing that every day is a do-over without any lasting consequences. Finally, a flicker of humanity stirs in the heart of this formerly unlikeable weatherman from Pittsburgh, and he begins to see and understand the people around him.
The guesses as to how long Phil was trapped in February 2 range from a couple of weeks to 10,000 years. It doesn’t matter; it’s just a movie.Pittsburgh is only shown in a few unattractive wintery shots, but since the real Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is just 84 miles away, this feels like a hometown movie. As the film ends, you realize that the weatherman from Pittsburgh has changed, not totally, but I’m sure that the man that exited that boarding house on February 3 wouldn’t recognize the guy that entered the place the day before Groundhog Day.