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Groundhog Day

 

April 8 2012

Groundhog Day, a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, is the story of a man who wakes up every morning on the same day: Groundhog Day.

No one else in the town is aware that the same events are repeating over and over; from his point of view, every morning he wakes up and it's the same day yet again.

Having finally seen Groundhog Day two decades after it came out, and greatly enjoying it, here are my thoughts:

  • The movie was successful because Bill Murray very effectively made a very funny movie from this premise; the romantic plot also works very well.

  • The idea of being in a "time loop" was shown near the ending of the 1971 Doctor Who story The Claws of Axos.

  • The idea that time loops for everyone except for one character who remembers previous iterations of the loop was done by Richard A. Lupoff in his 1973 story 12:01pm

  • Lupoff's story eventually became an Oscar-nominated 1990 short film.

  • Variations on the same idea were used in two previous Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, both in the 1989 episode Time Squared as well as the 1992 episode Cause and Effect

  • The loop in Groundhog Day is probably not possible in our universe because of its quantum nature (Our universe does not appear to be a cellular automata).

  • It would have been nice to have a Michael Landon-style angel show up who is also aware of the loop Bill Murray's character is trapped in and give us some explanation of why the loop is happening. On second thought, the movie works best without an explanation or anything else supernatural besides the time loop.

  • The movie implies that Bill Murray was trapped in the town as well as being trapped in February 2. It would have been interesting to have him leave the town (in a taxi after pulling the money from an ATM) early in the morning, hop on a plane from an airport near the town he's in and see if he can fly far enough away from Punxsutawney to break the loop. Presumably:

    • No matter how far away he gets, as soon as 6am comes around, he is teleported back in space, time, and body to the same hotel bed in Punxsutawney.
    • If he shifts time zones, the loop-back still happens at 6am EST (Punxsutawney local time)
    • The most likely reason they didn't do this in the film is because of the budget it would have taken.

  • I assume that if Bill Murray's character stays awake until the 6am loop-back, everything fades to black and he's waking up in the hotel room bed again (in Lupoff's 1973 story, the character is awake when the loop happens; in the original script, the character physically can not stay awake for the 6am turnover)

  • There's a lot of speculation on the internet (Warning: Linked article is full of spoilers), and, yes, even the director has chimed in about the number of times Bill Murray is stuck in the Groundhog Day loop (the original script mentions "10,000 years")

  • The New York Times had an article in 2003 about the religious significance of "Groundhog Day". The original script does have a few religious undertones, most notably the main character and his love interest speculating about there being an "absolute good".

  • The expression "Groundhog Day" is used in the military to represent being stuck in a repetitive rut. Indeed, Lupoff claims this is exactly what his original story was a metaphor for.

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