Groundhog Day, 1993.
Directed by Harold Ramis.
Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott.
The modern classic Groundhog Day arrives on 4K Ultra HD again in time for its 30th anniversary (but not timed with the actual holiday, for whatever reason). This time around, Sony has added Dolby Vision to the 4K transfer and put the disc, along with the accompanying Blu-ray and a code for a digital copy, in a handsome SteelBook. The legacy bonus features are included too.
The stories that resonate for years, decades, and even centuries are the ones that wrap relatable human emotions in a tidy narrative package. It doesn’t matter if it’s a play as old and iconic as Romeo and Juliet or a movie as recent but still just as iconic as Groundhog Day.
Yes, I really do believe the movie Groundhog Day will resonate for many years to come. Why? Because it’s a story about a self-centered weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray), who gets stuck reliving the Groundhog Day holiday in small-town Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over and over again until he finally learns how to be a decent human being. That’s as relatable as — and, yes, very similar to — A Christmas Carol.
Andie MacDowell plays Rita Hanson, Phil’s producer, while Chris Elliott takes on the role of cameraman Larry. The two of them take the job in stride, with Rita even remarking what fun it is to see a small town throw a party while waiting for their resident groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, to show his face and let everyone know if there will be six more weeks of winter.
Phil can’t wait to film what he sees as a pointless fluff piece and get out of there, since a higher-profile job at a more prominent TV station is waiting for him. When a blizzard hits town after the event and forces the departing crew to turn around, Phil finds himself waking up each morning to Groundhog Day all over again.
As he gets used to his predicament, he starts learning everything he can about not only the townspeople but also Rita, who he’s attracted to. When she realizes his ruse, however, he has to learn how to actually be a better person if he wants to win her over.
In the included 24-minute featurette, The Weight of Time, screenwriter Danny Rubin and director Harold Ramis both discuss the original version of the script, which opened with an en media res moment featuring Phil going through his Groundhog Day motions for the however-many hundredth time. (Rubin envisioned him being stuck in the time warp for thousands of years, although the film never says how long it actually goes on for.)
While that opening sounds intriguing, the final version of the narrative makes more sense to me. We need to be introduced to Phil in his original state before going through what is essentially purgatory with him, before he emerges out the other side, a changed man. I think that’s the best way to convey a timeless tale like this one.
Sony has issued Groundhog Day on 4K before, but they’ve teed it up again for its 30th anniversary in a SteelBook edition that also includes a Blu-ray and a code for a digital copy. My understanding is that the only thing that’s new about this edition is the inclusion of Dolby Vision, in addition to HDR, if that’s important to your 4K viewing.
To be fair, this isn’t a movie that really screams for the 4K treatment, since it isn’t the kind of film that you’re going to use to show off a high-end 4K setup, but I find some comfort in knowing that I own a copy of a classic film in its best-possible home video presentation. It looks excellent here, with an image quality that’s as close to the original theatrical version as possible. (I know, I say that about a lot of 4K discs, but I’m not sure how else to describe the current state of home video, since it has pretty much attained the peak of film presentation that aficionados have sought since the laserdisc days.)
As far as I can tell, the Blu-ray included here is the same one that’s been kicking around for a while, especially since it has the same complement of bonus features that have been available since the DVD days. It’s a bummer that no new extras were commissioned for this release, but what’s here is still a comprehensive look at the making of the film. In addition to the aforementioned Weight of Time featurette, you’ll find:
• Audio commentary with Ramis: The director is, surprisingly, not as funny as you might expect, at least during the beginning of this track, but he eventually warms up and gets into the swing of it. Since Ramis is unfortunately no longer with us, we will never get another chat from him, so it’s good that this track is still around.
• A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis (10 minutes): The director also weighs in on the film in this clip, which is more of a look back at the movie’s legacy than a “Here’s how we did it” kind of interview.
• The Story of Groundhogs: a Real Life Look at Marmots (6 minutes): This is a (perhaps surprisingly) serious look at groundhogs, which are actually one species within the greater Marmota genus. (Who said you can’t learn anything from 4K Ultra HD reviews?)
There’s also a picture-in-picture trivia track featuring Stephen Tobolowsky’s Needle Nose Ned character, who pops up occasionally to offer tidbits of information about the film. A batch of deleted scenes round out the disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★