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It’s Groundhog Day! Some fun facts and look back at classic movie

“Groundhog Day” fun facts

**The movie celebrates Punxsutawney’s most famous event, but it wasn’t filmed there. The town represented actually is Woodstock, Ill.

**There are four references to Altoona in the movie, three verbal and one on a weather map. All center around a blizzard that was supposed to hit Altoona instead of Punxsutawney.

**Director Harold Ramis suggests that Bill Murray’s character relived the same day for 10 years, though only 34 days are shown in the movie.

**The original screenplay had Murray’s character reliving Groundhog Day for 10,000 years.

This column I wrote originally appeared in the Altoona Mirror’s Go magazine about 15 years ago.

‘Groundhog Day’ enlightening as well as funny

Groundhog Day is one of our nation’s quirkiest observances, and it’s also the backdrop for one of the most brilliant and enlightening movies ever made.

“Groundhog Day” brilliant and enlightening? Say what?

Maybe you’ve never considered the Bill Murray time warp saga in that regard, but you should. Watch it once for entertainment, then watch it again and again for some tremendous insight into the human condition.

With the real Groundhog Day coming up next week, it’s a great time to break down the movie with the same name.

If you’re one of the few who have never seen the film, everything that follows probably won’t make much sense. And if you have seen it, you’ll never think of it the same way after reading the rest of this story.

What Murray’s character goes through while living the same day over and over again is a fascinatingly deep and existential conveyance of how virtually all people would react under the same circumstances.

In the movie, Murray’s character, Phil the weatherman, is shown reliving Groundhog Day only 34 times. Actually, the character is said to have repeated the day for 10 years, a time span that would drive anyone to all depths of human emotions.

Director Harold Ramis not only made a funny movie here, he and co-writer Danny Rubin made a film that captures the very essence of behavioral transformation.

Here’s a breakdown of the changes Phil goes through. Put yourself in his shoes and see if you agree that you too would enter each stage.

1: Fear and despair — The obvious first reaction we’d all have to knowing we’re stuck repeating a one-day cycle. Think about how terrifying it would be to wake up every morning but not be able to move on to the next day.

2: Adventurous — OK, so you’re stuck, but quickly you realize there are no consequences to anything you do, good or bad.

What would you do? Most of us would try everything to see if we could get away with it.

Phil takes a car for a joy ride on railroad tracks, eludes cops and then, after getting pulled over, he rolls down his window and tries to order hamburgers from the officer like he was at a fast-food joint.

3: Gluttony — You’ve done some crazy things, now it’s time to go all out.

Stuff your face with food, live it up with women, rob an armored truck. Remember, there are no consequences, so even the most prude of us likely would see just how much pleasure we could get out of life.

4: Depression — No matter how much we overindulge, eventually we’d realize there’s no escaping the hell that comes with the absence of a tomorrow. Murray has never done better acting than during his scenes here as a hopelessly lost, broken man.

5: Suicidal — Many people believe suicide is the worst act a person can commit and would never consider it under any circumstances.

At what point, though, after years of being trapped in time, would that weight consume your mind so much that suicide becomes the only way out? Phil commits suicide four times in the movie, though many more attempts are inferred.

6: Sympathetic — Phil started out as a pompous jerk, and only after trying everything else does he begin to shift his behavioral foundation.

He realizes he needs help, not just to use people to benefit himself, but real help. He reaches out with sincerity to the one person he truly cares about, his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell).

7: Acceptance — This stage happens almost simultaneously with the Sympathetic stage as a more humble Phil finally comes to the understanding that he must make the best of his situation.

He begins helping people in the town, tries to save a homeless man from dying and begins honest dialogue with Rita about his plight. He also did the latter earlier in the film because it offered a reward, but now Phil realizes it’s a greater reward having a true friend than a one-night stand.

Not everyone watches movies for deep meaning into existence, which is why so few films even bother tackling such subjects. To do so in a comedy was a major risk, but “Groundhog Day” pulled it off in impressive fashion in 1993.

If you really think about how you’d handle 10 years worth of Groundhog Days, chances are you’d spend at least some time in each stage above. Of course, how long each stage lasts would depend entirely on what kind of person you are when you enter the cycle.

Phil was an awful person when he started, so it took him a long time. But he finally figured things out and became the human being we’re all capable of becoming.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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