Published on August 7th, 2020 | by Kim Kurtenbach2
Because You’ve Seen Groundhog Day So Many Times
Sick of reliving the same day over and over, watching Groundhog Day until you’re sick of it? Kim knows just how to escape that vicious cycle.
My favourite movie of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I sometimes ponder that ever-so-slight complication in production that landed Harrison Ford the lead role instead of Spielberg’s first choice, Tom Selleck, who was committed to Magnum P.I. (1980). Strangely, I believe to this day that Selleck would have been a fine Indy. I love that movie so much that even the thought of a major casting change doesn’t bother me.
Now, it’s your turn to consider a major casting change. Imagine Groundhog Day (1993) with Michael Keaton playing Phil. Yup. That almost happened. How does that make you feel? Could you still hold that movie in the same regard if Bill Murray was not the lead role? Hang on to that thought for a minute. You might just get to eat your cake and have it, too.
Before Bill Murray made a visit to Harold Ramis on his deathbed to set things right, the two hadn’t spoken in years. After Groundhog Day, Murray stopped talking to his director and friend. Maybe it was the stress of the divorce Murray was dealing with during filming that triggered the rift. Maybe it was something else. It doesn’t matter. After starring together in Stripes (1981), Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), their relationship came to an end with Groundhog Day. And so, Ramis carried on the best way he knew how – making quirky, funny movies.
Ramis, now Murray-less, circled back two plus years after Groundhog Day to find Michael Keaton and cast him as the lead in Multiplicity (1996). He also doubled down on Andie MacDowell as his leading lady again, Brian Doyle-Murray (apparently Bill’s brother didn’t hate Ramis) and Robin Duke. Both movies share cast members and director, but they also explore the same theme of what a person could do if they had more time. Phil repeats the same day, over and over, trying out different versions of himself and, eventually, becomes a better man. Ramis came at the same scenario from a different angle in Multiplicity. Instead of a purgatory-like entrapment of the main character, Doug Kinney (Keaton) makes a very conscious and hilariously rational decision to allow himself to be cloned. It seems that making an exact duplicate of a human being is tricky, and the clone turns out…not quite as planned. That doesn’t stop Doug #2 from integrating himself into parts of Original Doug’s life and making it a little better. Then, a lot worse.
Doug wants to be a better man. He is not blind to his problems and his faults like Phil, he’s not a total dick. Nothing forced Doug to take a hard look at himself and improve, he simply tries to capitalize on an unusual opportunity. By cloning himself, Doug figures there’s a way to reduce his stressful workload and pay more attention to his wife and kids. It’s also the device that allows for gags and shenanigans, as well as a performance by Keaton that actually rivals Bill Murray’s charming and hysterical turn in Groundhog Day.
For recommendation criteria you might be stuck on the time-loop aspect of Groundhog Day, and I can see your point. There are better alternatives in the form of Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow (2014), or Nic Cage’s Next (2007), or maybe even Source Code (2011). These examples provide the requisite time paradox in mirrored image, yes, but they lack the sweetness and the comedy that makes Groundhog Day so enduring. Bill Murray is a funny, cynical, deadpan genius. That’s hard to replicate – unless you’re Michael Keaton, who was Mr. Mom before he was Batman. Multiplicity just doesn’t get the love it deserves. It certainly didn’t get it at the box-office, where it only made $21M off the $45M budget. Groundhog Day, by comparison, made nearly $71M from a $15M investment. I call bullshit. These two movies are on far more even ground than these beguiling numbers would suggest.
If you’ve seen Groundhog Day so many times that you just can’t sit though the ten years of repeated February, small town days endured by the same man ad nauseam, try a similar but slightly different approach. Multiplicity takes the same premise and presents it in an acceptably substitute fashion that provides an equal amount of quotable lines and rare, mind-cleansing belly laughs. This might not be the deep-dive search into the nether regions of auxiliary suggestions this humble column has become known for, but I’ll bet you can’t quite picture the movie poster for Multiplicity. It’s been washed away in a sea of mediocrity, lost to poor advertising or buried by movies of the same year such as Independence Day, Twister, Mission: Impossible or The Rock.
The next time you get the hankering for Groundhog Day, make the flip to Multiplicity instead. Watch it, give it a day or two, and you’ll find yourself giggling at work about lines such as “What? Like a real estate emergency?” or “That leg’s gonna have to come off, Steve!” or “She touched my Pepe.”. The entire movie, like its bizarro twin Groundhog Day, is deliciously quotable. If you enjoyed watching Bill Murray trying on all his different versions of Phil, the same is in store for your time with Doug Kinney (and his clones). Multiplicity is an overlooked comedy that deserves much higher regard. Added bonus: Eugene Levy as Vic might be your new Ned Reyerson. Enjoy!