Viking Night: Groundhog Day

By Bruce Hall

October 26, 2010

He keeps getting stuck with rodents.

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Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.

The philosophical concept of Eternal Recurrence suggests that because of the infinite nature of time and the limited amount of matter in the universe, everything and everyone that's ever existed will at some point repeat itself. For you Battlestar Galactica fans out there, that means "all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again." I kind of doubt there's anything to this, but wouldn’t it be nice to get another shot at everything you ever screwed up? In fact, what if the universe just flat refused to let you move on until you got something right? We’ve all wished for second chances, but living the same experience over and over again just to get one thing right probably isn’t what most of us had in mind. We all have regrets, but for me, one semester of Trigonometry was enough. And getting another crack at a failed relationship probably isn’t a good idea in practice. Lucky for all of us, these sorts of things only happen in movies and it happens to be the point of Harold Ramis' unlikely existential comedy Groundhog Day.


With apologies to Willard Scott, the job of a television weather man is somewhat less than glamorous. And as entertaining as he is, Bill Murray doesn't exactly cut a dashing figure. This is exactly what makes Phil Connors (Murray) and his obscene level of self preoccupation so amusing. With his career path aimed at a cushy network morning show, Phil struts around his current job with one foot out the door, treating both his coworkers and his assignments with oily contempt. It’s pretty clear that his colleagues aren’t too impressed with him in return; none of them seem to enjoy his company or respect his expertise. It kind of makes you wonder how someone like Phil could even hang on to a job, because finding someone capable of reading weather reports from a teleprompter doesn’t really seem to be that difficult. This is probably why despite his bravado, Phil is an unhappy man, and matters aren't helped when he's forced to work under a new producer (Andie Macdowell) and assigned to cover the Groundhog Day festival in Punxsutawney, PA.

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