Christmas Day has finally arrived, and if you haven’t had your fill of Christmas movies yet, then you might when you realize that these flicks are still going to be on every streamer through the end of the month. But if you’re ready to move on from the Christmas season’s holiday dominance over the month of December, then there’s only one choice: Groundhog Day.
Replacing a ton of holiday films with one single holiday flick may seem like a stretch, but Groundhog Day really is the perfect movie to watch after Christmas. It has all of the emotional sentiment that anyone could possibly want while embracing comedy and fantasy at the same time. The late Harold Ramis directed and co-wrote this movie, which features his Ghostbusters castmate, Bill Murray, as Phil Connors, a TV weatherman who seems destined to relive the same day for eternity. If you need to be convinced, these are the three reasons why you should watch Groundhog Day after Christmas.
Not even Bill Murray is immune from appearing in a few bad movies, but he’s often the best thing about those films. Fortunately, Groundhog Day is a great movie, and Murry’s presence makes it even better. Murray has a particular gift of being able to play likable jerks, and at the beginning of this movie, Phil Connors is about as unrepentantly misanthropic as possible. Phil treats everyone around him as if they were beneath him. And yet Murray plays Phil in such a hilarious way that we laugh at his antics instead of despising him.
Murray’s magic trick in this movie is that he doesn’t just rely on his old routines. Over the course of the story, we see Phil experience a wide range of emotions, from suicidal despair to love and compassion for the people around him. He becomes a fully rounded human in front of our eyes, and it only took a few thousand years, as experienced in countless time loops of the same day. It’s an audacious premise for a movie, and yet Murray’s performance allows us to believe every aspect of Phil’s persona. In the end, it’s almost impossible not to love him.
Many movies set during winter tend to revolve around Christmas, whether it’s simply a backdrop for the story or if the holiday is important to the plot. Groundhog Day is such a great palate cleanser after Christmas because the holiday is already in the rearview mirror in this film. No one’s talking about Christmas when February 2 is the biggest day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
The actual Groundhog Day has been one of Punxsutawney’s defining events for well over a century, and the film played up this unofficial holiday to great comedic effect. When the day starts repeating itself, Phil doesn’t always appreciate it. But there are moments where it’s a real winter wonderland, especially when Phil and his producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), take the time to enjoy the snow and ambiance while falling in love.
Murray had previously starred in Scrooged, which was a modernized comedic take on A Christmas Carol. However, the redemptive story of Groundhog Day is even more effective because Phil has to work out for himself that the only way forward is to become a better person. And he does just that by devoting himself to helping the people of Punxsutawney each and every day of the time loop once he sets his mind to it.
There is a particular moment when it’s clear that Phil has really changed. Whereas earlier in the film, Phil ignored the homeless man (Les Podewell), he spends countless loops trying to prevent the man’s death. Phil discovers a compassionate side of himself that he had never embraced before as he does everything he could think of to save the homeless man. Even when he knows that nothing he does changes the man’s fate, Phil still tries to save him. And Phil may have been the homeless man’s only mourner when he inevitably passes.
That was the transformative experience that Phil needed to complete his transformation into a truly good man. That’s the version of Phil who easily wins Rita’s heart even when he’s resigned to living out the same day over and over. It’s also the perfect way for this post-Christmas fable to arrive at a happy ending that works no matter what time of year you’re watching it.
Watch Groundhog Day on MGM+.
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