GROUNDHOG DAY: 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (DVD)

4 Stars
Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 101 minutes
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To double-dip or not to double-dip? That’s the question that often vexes DVD buyers. The same movie studios that were once so terrified of home video that they sued Sony over the Betamax have now learned that a classic film like “Groundhog Day” can be a perpetual moneymaker, once it lasts a certain number of years divisible by five and more stuff can be crammed on the disc. (Of course, anyone who’s due a percentage of the net profits will be told the film’s still losing money.)

While “Groundhog Day” may not have been considered two-disc worthy, Sony and Columbia Pictures obviously figured there was a large enough audience to put out another single-disc release. Sure, this is a wonderful film that has withstood the test of time. In fact, watching it again, I was struck by the realization that other filmmakers might have been tempted to over-explain the curse that forces Phil to relive the same day over and over. Someone else might have wanted to stick Kathy Bates in there as an angry old woman who Phil insults and who casts a curse on him, only to return later and explain how he can end it. (Yes, I later became aware of the earlier draft of the script that had Phil’s ex-girlfriend cast a curse on him; my point is, I’m glad Ramis steered away from that.)

Instead, the curse simply happens. Unlike a movie like “Star Wars” or “Back to the Future,” where we need a character to explain the rules, “Groundhog Day” can be seen as a metaphor for our own lives, as director and co-writer Harold Ramis explains in the new interview on this disc. In that sense, we don’t need to know how or why the curse happens, just that it does. Accept that part of the story and roll with it, nitpickers.

This 15th Anniversary Edition ports over everything from the original Special Edition release, including the documentary “The Weight of Time” and Harold Ramis’ so-so audio commentary (lots of dead air, but plenty of his trademark deadpan humor; you’ll pull a few interesting production anecdotes out of his track). It adds a new ten-minute interview with Ramis in which he reminisces on the film’s legacy and why he thinks people still enjoy it.

This disc also features six minutes worth of deleted scenes, all of which seem to have been cut before reaching post-production, seeing as they aren’t in very good shape and use pre-foley audio tracks. They’re mostly unremarkable, except for the pool scene, which is pretty good but would have been a case of beating a dead horse if it had been left in.

Finally, for whatever reason, someone decided we should know more about the film’s star critter, so this disc concludes with “The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life Look at Marmots,” which runs about 6.5 minutes. It doesn’t even focus on Punxsutawney Phil’s species, instead looking at a western variant of marmot being studied in Kansas. It’s interesting in the sense that most of us don’t know much about marmots and may be curious to learn a little bit about them, but ultimately it doesn’t add anything to our understanding of the film.

Sony also boasts that this disc features remastered video, but I compared it against the previous release and didn’t see much of a difference. The new menus are better, though, if such a thing matters to you. In the end, the question of double-dipping comes down to whether or not you can live without the new bonus features. Personally, none of them would have compelled me to buy this film again. I probably would have rented it to see the new extras and kept my old disc.



Posted on January 31, 2008 in Reviews by
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