As one of Bill Murray's best films and a true comedy classic, it's great to see Groundhog Day given a 4K UltraHD Blu-ray. The movie has never looked better, thanks to the improved contrast and color of the HDR10 grading, but it's not a huge leap forward in fine details. Likewise, the new Dolby Atmos mix also provides a nice sonic uptick over the previous 5.1 TrueHD track. And the bonus materials are the same as the 15th Anniversary release. Recommended for 4K enthusiasts who never picked up the Blu-ray, but a double-dip may be a hard sell for some.
"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
"That about sums it up for me."
Once again I find myself in the seat of having to discuss a movie that by all measure is a true comedy classic and loved by most without much left to say about it. What more can I possibly add to the conversation about a film like Groundhog Day? One that is dissected and discussed, quoted, and laughed at every single year? Some even mark it as the last truly "Bill" Bill Murray film to come out of the 90s. 25 years on and Groundhog Day still oozes charm and hilarity. Who knew one man's purgatory as he traverses the classic stages of grief would continue to be so damn funny nearly a quarter-century after its theatrical release?
If you traveled back in time and talked to my 10-year-old self, he'd have told you that Groundhog Day was one of the most boring movies he'd ever seen in his entire life. The first time I saw it I went into it expecting something hilarious. It was Bill Murray, I liked Stripes and Ghostbusters so through the transitive property, I should have enjoyed this one. It also came out around the time I started being aware and paying attention to critic opinions and the number of stars a flick got in newspaper write-ups. By all indications, Groundhog Day should have made me bust a gut - but it didn't. I thought it was slow, boring, and not the least bit funny. It turns out watching a movie like this on an airplane wasn't such a great idea.
25 years ago I didn't know that airlines essentially used the hacked and slashed T.V. broadcast edits of movies removing all the good bits to make any and every film sanitary for sensitive little eyes and years that may explode upon the sights and sounds of mild sexual content and or naughty language.
It was more than a year later that I finally got to see the real movie when my dad rented it from the video store on a Friday night. I may have dug my heels in, not wanting to see it again, but I'm glad my folks went ahead and put it on anyway. I guess I can count them lucky for sleeping on the airplane because they got to enjoy a true and honest first viewing experience. For my part, I had to admit that I was wrong about the movie because the tape playing in our gigantic double-decker VHS player was nothing like the movie I saw on the airplane. This Groundhog Day was actually funny. All of the jokes had their punchlines. That weird tangent where Bill Murray's Phil meets Nancy at Gobbler's Knob actually had an ending to it when he comically seduces her. When Phil takes the groundhog out for a drive before flying off into a quarry, I got to see a fiery explosion give the perfect punctuation mark to the scene. When Phil decides to mess with "Needle Head" Ned one morning by embracing him longingly - yeah that scene wasn't in the airplane cut.
At this point, I guess the moral of the story is this: don't watch movies on airplanes. At least not the version of the movie that's playing on that giant overhead projector. Thinking back on all of the funny stuff that was cut from the movie to make it safe for eyes and ears with irritation problems, I can't even really remember what was left. The movie clocks in at barely an hour and forty minutes as it is and that sanitized version easily chopped ten to twenty minutes of great material. Without those great jokes, without those punchlines, Groundhog Day felt like a depressing sorta-funny movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. With those crucial moments restored, I came to love Groundhog Day as a genuine comedy classic. It quickly became a household favorite and is one that we try to watch around this time of year when winter is bitter cold, the sky is an unrelenting blanket of grey, and you're desperate for something funny to lighten the doldrums. If it's even remotely possible that you haven't seen this film, it's time to check it out. With all of the bitterly cold winter storms hitting lately, you owe it to yourself to give this great flick a spin and have a good time.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Just in time for its 25th anniversary - and February 2nd - Sony has given Groundhog Day the sparkling 4K UHD treatment arriving in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital HD set. Pressed onto a Region Free BD-66 disc, the 4k UHD and Blu-ray's are housed in a standard sturdy two-disc black Ultra-HD case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The Blu-ray disc is the exact same one as the 15th Anniversary edition and has not undergone any remastering or been given a new audio mix. The included digital copy can be redeemed via Movies Anywhere. Note: For some reason, my slip wouldn't redeem. I kept getting an error notice because I already have Groundhog Day in my digital collection. To that end, I do not know if the slip redeems in full 4K or not or if it gains a Dolby Vision push on Vudu, or if it's only viewable on Sony's platform. I've sent inquiries to the folks at Movies Anywhere and as of this writing, I have not heard back from them.
Groundhog Day jumps into the 4K fray with a pleasing 2160p 1.85:1 image transfer. I'm not privy to any information about this film undergoing a recent restoration or not, but regardless the results offer up a notable improvement. The opening credits, where the image is distorted a bit to look like you're viewing Bill through a television camera, aren't all that impressive. But once that first cutaway clicks as he's about to run off to Punxsutawney, the differences between the 15th Anniversary Blu-ray and this 4K Ultra HD release quickly come into focus. As this is a purposefully drab-looking film to evoke a sense of late winter, details don't immediately leap off the screen. But outside daylight scenes - particularly the scenes around Gobbler's Knob - or any moments in the warm and inviting B&B that Phil wakes up in every morning offers up some impressive details.
However, the big standout for this new release is the standard HDR10 push which thankfully hasn't been overused. Flesh tones are natural with plenty of healthy pink and mid-winter paleness indicative of a people who can't work on their tans in frigid temperatures. Primaries are also better defined with vivid hues. Contrast and black levels are also greatly improved as there is a notable improvement in shadow separation so objects and people aren't blanketed in solid blacks. Whites have a nice sparkle to them without being overbearing, my eye was frequently drawn to Phil's comforter at the B&B. His headboard also shows better shades of brown with deep mahogany hues. Bottomline, for a little comedy like Groundhog Day, it's never looked better.
Groundhog Day also arrives with a subtle, if not overly impressive Dolby Atmos mix. Make no mistake, this is light years beyond the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix from the 15th Anniversary release. It's just that this film was never a sonic wonder to begin with so the advantages of a full-on Atmos mix are more on the subtle side rather than something a little more action-packed. The most immediate improvements arrive with the film's opening song, "I'm Your Weatherman" by Delbert McClinton. There's a stronger bass presence and there's plenty of extra oomph to the song. The same can be said for George Genton's score. Where most of the time it's quiet and cutesy, it really picks up and punches in the lower LFE tones during the action bits when Phil's driving on the train tracks or around town with the groundhog. Sound effects have a pretty standard presence with some decent surround activity, but nothing too dynamic outside of those previously mentioned action beats. However, atmospherics do enjoy a nice presence that helps the wintery feel of the film with plenty of swirling winds, passing cars with crunchy tires, the sound of feet stepping on snow. Dialogue is crystal clear with natural sounding exchanges between the characters. Levels are spot on and there aren't any anomalies to report. An Atmos mix may not have been entirely necessary for this film, but what's here is pretty damn great and a notable improvement over the previous release.
Unfortunately, no new bonus features have been assembled for this release. All of the bonus features that are on the included Blu-ray are the exact same ones from the 15th Anniversary set. They're all pretty decent features for sure, but they're also of the sort that if you've seen them once you don't really have a need to give them a second go. The real standout of that batch is the Harold Ramis Audio Commentary. As this is arguably his best film that he directed, I wish a retrospective or some new cast and crew interviews were conducted. For a breakdown and review of those bonus features, take a look at our coverage for the 15th Anniversary release HERE.
Groundhog Day is a true comedy classic. A quarter-century after its theatrical release, the film is still hilarious and has stood the test of time. Bill Murray is in his element while the supporting cast of Andy MacDowell, Chris Elliott, and great turns from Stephen Tobolowsky Brian Doyle-Murray add to the comedic flavor of this holiday favorite.
Sony has given Groundhog Day a pleasing upgrade by shepherding it in the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray era. The picture may enjoy some improved details, but the real standout is the stronger colors, contrast, and black levels courtesy of a smartly applied HDR10 grading. The new Dolby Atmos mix is also a notable improvement even if the film will never be demo material. While the film certainly looks and sounds better than ever, sadly, the only bonus features are the ones already present on the 15th Anniversary release. At the end of the day, this is an easy one to recommend - especially if you never purchased the Blu-ray. A double dip may be a tough sell to some, but what you're getting will make terrific use of your state-of-the-art display and sound setup.