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Retro Review: ‘Groundhog Day’ is a loop of brutal boredom

Angelica Jorio

This article is part of the “Retro Review” series. Each month, four films — united by a singular theme — are assessed. The theme for January 2024 is “time loop.”

January — the month of failing resolutions, new beginnings and fresh starts.

It’s also the wintery month preceding February, one containing a holiday where a special furry friend makes an essential decision regarding the weather — that’s right, Groundhog Day. 

It’s one of the most irrelevant holidays to ever exist, but it’s still pretty cute. It also spurred Harold Ramis’ 1993 film, “Groundhog Day,” which is… less cute.

Phil (Bill Murray) is a TV meteorologist in Pittsburgh who, for the last few years, has been tasked with reporting from Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day, much to his disgust. His annual trip gets weird when Phil wakes up the morning after the little creature emerges to determine if he’ll see his shadow to discover that no time has passed — instead, it’s Groundhog Day once again. Trapped in an endless loop of Pennsylvanian festivities, Phil travels a path of self-improvement in the hopes of eventually escaping the loop.

This film has popularized the trope of entrapping characters in a single-day loop, forcing them to relive the same period of time over and over again. Typically, the character is frustrated and driven close to insanity as a result of their predicament. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how this movie feels.

The film is supposed to be repetitive, because, well, that’s the point of the movie! But goodness, it’s a film that makes one check their watch repeatedly, desperately waiting to escape Murray’s insufferable character.

That’s not to say it’s Murray’s fault, but the character, and its arc, have been done to death. The typical grump to wonderfully-generous-nice-guy trope has been played out time and time again (“A Christmas Carol” is the first to come to mind). 

Just because it’s a time loop movie doesn’t mean the time spent watching the movie has to be so painful.

In terms of its filmmaking tools, the cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène… it’s all basic. There are no stunning camera movements or jump cuts, which is fine: It is, after all, a comedy-fantasy film largely centered on jokes and plot.

What isn’t fine is that those jokes and plots are subpar as well.

An example of said subpar jokes:

“Do you ever have deja vu?” asks Rita (Andie MacDowell), a news producer whom Phil pursues throughout the film.

“Didn’t you just ask me that?” responds Phil, in earnest.

Good try, but no — just not funny enough.

More problems arise due to the film’s slow pacing, as the filmmakers take too long to show Phil going through all of the looped days. Naturally, these scenes have to be repeated, but starting a lot of them from the beginning is just completely unnecessary. Let’s hurry this up, people!

For those who decide to watch it on Prime Video, its trivia section, which comes up when one tries to pause or check how much time is left, is honestly more entertaining than the film itself. This fantastic tool provided the weird tidbit that “Groundhog Day” was Michael Shannon’s film debut (he had a small role as a newlywed named Fred).

Yes, this is not a cataclysmic, movie-saving feature (neither was Shannon’s role), but it provided some random amusement and distraction from the sluggish 101-minute runtime of this movie.

Also, there’s that auction of single people near the end of the film. Talk about uncomfortable! It does give a heartwarming moment when Rita bids the entire contents of her wallet for a date with Phil, but the entire situation is just awkward. Auctioning off dates feels so antiquated, and it was most likely worsened by this movie’s, well, lack of quality (the older woman who was only willing to pay $5 needs to up her game, too).

Similar to how Phil felt about living in this constant loop, “Groundhog Day” is just a waste of time. On the bright side, at least, the groundhog is still pretty cute.

About the Contributor
Angelica Jorio
Angelica Jorio, Design Editor
Angelica Jorio is a fourth-year political science and economics major and design editor of The News. This is her third time being design editor after a year hiatus while she was student body president. If not designing or frantically responding to slacks, Angelica can be found hunting down the best cappuccino in Boston!
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