Every year for the last 30 years we celebrate “Groundhog Day.” This year, Sony Pictures does it with a commemorative steelbook.

Though there have been plenty of films that used time travel as a narrative mechanism for the entirety of storytelling, in recent memory, few do it as well as the Harold Ramis-directed, Danny Rubin-co-written, Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day (1993). There have certainly been some recent fantastic ones (Palm Springs (2020) and The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021) immediately spring to mind), but Groundhog Day holds the title. Nearly four years ago, the film received its first 4K UHD release, but, now, in celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment offers a limited edition 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo steelbook that includes all the legacy materials, too.

Womanizing and snide doesn’t begin to describe weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), and being sent to Punxsutawney once more to cover Groundhog Day doesn’t put the already sour man in a better mood. Joined by producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and camera operator Larry (Chris Elliott), all Phil can think of is getting in, doing the report, and getting out. Except something else has other plans for Phil and where his life is headed. First the three are blocked from leaving town due to a blizzard that wasn’t supposed to head their way and then, for some reason, every time he loses consciousness, he wakes up at the start of the day, February 2nd, Groundhog Day, repeating the day over and over. Can Phil figure out a way to break the cycle or will the infinite loneliness of his perpetual existence break him first?

Groundhog Day is the kind of film you can watch either as a mere romantic comedy or as a profound philosophical exercise. The first way allows for considering Phil as the grotesque narcissist he is, taking advantage of his situation to the fullest until he realizes how empty his life is, at which point we begin to root for the jerk as he climbs his way out. Much of the success here resides within Murray’s gift to play a charming jerk, as well as a romantic lead. We buy Phil’s transformation because of Murray and the connection the audience has with him. In our rooting for him, we believe that the romance Phil finds with Rita (and she with him) is honest and pure, born out of his change. Add to the fact that Phil is not that much different than Murray’s Frank Cross (1988’s Scrooged), then there’s already some banked understanding of personal transformation. Of course, credit goes to Ramis and Rubin for their smart script which turns to gold in the hands of the stacked cast of talent who are able to go toe-to-toe with Murray, but it’s also this script which opens the door to a deeper conversation.

In fact, post-watch, EoM editor Crystal Davidson and I engaged in an examination of the film regarding the next day. The specific question being: what happens next? Now, one can view Groundhog Day as a controlled system, one in which everything that happens should only be considered through the lens the audience is given. This is the same logic that prevents much of Looper (2012) from falling apart, but also is a necessity as the film is specifically designed to be viewed as a fixed narrative, not a loop. *Back to the discussion.* So what’s the next day like for Phil, Rita, Larry, and the rest of Phil’s coworkers? Are we expected to believe that all of these people would just accept Phil’s new persona after (from their perspective) one days’ time? My read on it is that the loop Phil found himself in could only be escaped by learning to make choices that made him better. The fantastic Michael Schur-created The Good Place touches on the idea of life being something one must do over and over until they learn enough to go to The Good Place, shifting the notion that someone only gets one shot at life to earn entrance into paradise (whatever that means for your faith of which that show and this film are slightly agnostic). With this in mind, Phil’s new test becomes what he does the next day and whether he can remain the changed man despite his colleagues and friends believing him to be the person they disliked only a day or two before. Personally, I like this idea because it allows the film to end on the same positive note and maintain it. Sure, Phil may have lived the same day thousands of times stuck in this cycle, but, freed from it, his real work begins. That’s fascinating and philosophically rich.

Even though this is a 30th anniversary edition, there’s nothing new that’s offered beyond the steelbook packaging. There’re the same six deleted scenes and the same featurettes and audio commentary, though there does appear to be a difference between what’s available on-disc versus streaming, with the “Needle Nose Ned’s Picture-in-Picture Track” being less-than-easily accessible digitally. Amusingly, when the review copy sent by Sony Pictures arrived, I’d made a time-travel joke (as one does with this film) only to open the steelbook and discover that while the 4K UHD disc sports a 2023 copyright for the artwork, the Blu-ray is literally the 15th Anniversary edition. This is important to know when deciding whether snagging this steelbook editon is important or not. For cinephiles, what’s been offered previously is already available in more standard packaging, so, really, the steelbook packaging is the prize and that may not be enough for some to double-dip.

The art available to share about the steelbook only shows off the front of the steelbook: the standard image of Murray’s face and his two hands transposed within a clock that sits on a snowy tundra. On the back, Punxsutawney Phil is depicted bursting through the cover, a little bit of snow on his head. Inside, the discs sit within a clear plastic lining with the case reverse-side image being, to no one’s shock, the scene of Phil and Phil driving the car (don’t drive angry!). Ultimately, it’s a simple design that does elicit a chuckle when seen.

As home releases and re-releases start to fall into a bit of an endless cycle, it makes a weird bit of sense that Groundhog Day would lack a certain excitement and feel like more of what we’ve seen, yet still bring about a little bit of joy. Again, this isn’t to minimize the artwork (which is fine) or to denigrate the lack of bonus features (not all anniversary releases require something new), it’s just that a film which is, on its face, a film whose loop is, essentially, recycling; the fact that this release is so similar to other prior releases generates a chuckle. Ultimately, is this enough for cinephiles to purchase this edition? Likely not, but steelbook collectors may whistle a different tune. For those who don’t own Groundhog Day or who made the leap to the 4K UHD edition, this is an easier decision than whether or not you need life insurance. (Am I right or am I right?)

Groundhog Day Legacy Features:

4K UHD Disc

  • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos audio + 5.1 + 2-Channel Surround

Blu-ray Disc

  • Feature presented in High Definition
  • Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio
  • Audio Commentary with Director Harold Ramis
  • Needle Nose Ned’s Picture-in-Picture Track
  • A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis
  • The Weight of Time Documentary
  • The Study of Groundhogs: A Real-Life Look at Marmots
  • Six (6) Deleted Scenes

Available on 4k UHD Blu-ray Combo steelbook January 10th, 2023.

For more information, head to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Groundhog Day webpage.


Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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