Saturday, February 1, 2014

Books on Film: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a film that doesn't really fit this category, though it is a movie based on a story...and perhaps it's based on more then one story. Either way, this movie tells a good story. Even if it is the same story over and over and over...

The Film

If you haven't seen Groundhog Day, I don't even want you to read this post. Go and watch it and then crawl out of that cave you're living in because how? This movie is a true cult classic and it's earned every single cable broadcast it's ever been given.

The amazing Bill Murray stars as weatherman Phil Connors, whose unfortunate duty it is to cover the famed Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Yes it's a real place and yes, they have a huge festival every year (at Gobbler's Knob) in order to watch a groundhog climb out of his hole. The movie does a fair job of showing this event (despite the fact that the movie was not filmed in Pennsylvania anywhere).

Andie MacDowell is Murray's co-worker and, we soon learn, love interest. He's not good enough for her by far...and this is why Phil is doomed to repeat Groundhog Day over and over and over again until he gets it right. It's great stuff, and Murray is fabulous in the role.

It's a great story and it's a fun plot. So fun, in fact, that's it been repeated and re-used in several Hallmark movie productions...or, um, so I hear. But is the film the original story? 


The Book

The screenplay for Groundhog Day was written by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, and it's said to be based on a story idea from Rubin. And that may very well be true. But the plot itself definitely isn't an original idea.

Like I always say, there aren't any original ideas. Richard A. Lupoff, who wrote the short story "12:01 PM" knows that, too. He published his story in 1973 about a man stuck in a time loop, and it was even adapted in 1990 (before 1993 and Groundhog Day's breakout success). A lawsuit was brought against Columbia Pictures, but eventually dropped.

Maybe because someone tipped the lawyers off to the existence of "Shadow Play," an old episode of The Twilight Zone featuring a very similar plot. The original episode aired in 1961 about a man stuck in a recurring nightmare that ends with his execution. Heady stuff, I know.

In the end, it doesn't matter where the inspiration for Groundhog Day comes from. It's a cute movie starring Bill Murray about a holiday that very few people choose to feature...and that holiday happens tomorrow. So celebrate it by watching this movie -- and like the groundhog, dreaming of the end of winter.

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