- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2018

Director and writer Harold Ramis’ fantastic fantasy comedy returns to home entertainment screens with a new 4K Ultra HD remaster sure to delight its faithful fan base in Groundhog Day: 25th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG, 101 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $24.99).

For those unaware of this classic, Bill Murray starred in one of his most memorable performances as the curmudgeonly Phil Connors, a local news weatherman from Pittsburgh stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and forced to relive Groundhog Day over and over again.

Mr. Murray is at his most delightful, mixing sarcasm with insults and just a hint of devilish charm as he decides how to take full advantage of his predicament while learning some valuable life lessons.

For example, while caught in this hilarious time loop, Phil manages to learn French, how to play piano and even conquers ice sculpting as he woos his slightly naive location producer Rita Hanson (a genuinely optimistic Andie MacDowell).

Besides Mr. Murray’s magic, the entire cast shines, including Chris Elliot as a goofy cameraman, Stephen Tobolowsky as the obnoxious insurance salesman Ned Ryerson and Robin Duke as a town waitress.

And, keep an eye out for a young Michael Shannon (the versatile actor known for his roles as Zod in “Man of Steel and Nelson Van Alden in “Boardwalk Empire”) in his first major film appearance as the dorky groom Fred.

4K UHD in action: Considering the decades-old film source, the level of grain seen in much of the digital transfer should be expected.

Still, Sony does a too-great-a-job bringing sharper detail to the action to the point that viewers will notice such oddities as skin aberrations, especially on Mr. Murray’s pocked face, nose hairs and even actors’ slight teeth discolorations.

More impressive are the high dynamic range color tweaks seen in moments such as sparks flying out from under a car as it drives on railroad tracks, Phil devouring plates of desserts at the Tip Top Cafe, light hitting textured cobblestones on a wet road, tiny rock variations in massive gravel pit mounds and a fireball emitting from an exploding truck.

However, the film only needs the sharp dialogue and humor to succeed so the upgraded visuals, though appreciated, were not necessarily needed for this classic.

Surprisingly, I slightly preferred the Blu-ray version of the film in some scenes that offered much warmer skin and interior color tones, maybe less sharp but still very serviceable for upscaled home entertainment systems.

Best extras: Viewers will need to pop in the included Blu-ray version of the film to find all of the previously released bonus content from the 2009 15th Anniversary release.

Leading the way is an optional commentary track by the late Mr. Ramis, in a subdued and slightly sarcastic mood, who seems very satisfied by the film’s continued success.

Next, a roughly six-minute visit to the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab presents interviews from researchers as they offer a wealth of information on yellow-bellied marmots, a cousin of the groundhog.

Now, silliest of the bunch of extras is a picture-in-picture trivia track starring ole Needle Nose Ned. The annoying salesman literally pops up from the bottom of the screen or as a tiny version of him walking onto the screen.

He might offer nuggets such as the movie was called “Day Without End” in France, or a real animal wrangler held the groundhog during the scenes. He even quizzes viewers about the movie asking “what station does Phil work for?”

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