We've Reached Maximum 'Groundhog Day'
For all practical purposes, the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day introduced American audiences to a mind-warping trope: A character gets stuck in a time loop, doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until some kind of lesson is learned.
(Sure, nitpicky naysayers can point to earlier films and novels that explore somewhat similar concepts, but go with us on the Groundhog’s Day thing here.)
The film was a smash, screenwriters Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin were lauded for their original script, and ever since, we’ve been in a Groundhog Day of our own, doomed to movies and TV shows that repeat their plots over and over again until … we learn some kind of lesson, apparently?
From dramas to comedies, from TV shows to feature-length movies, creative environmentalists have been doing their part by continuing to recycle Groundhog Day’s central story idea. You want examples? No problem:
* Palm Springs -- In this 2020 Andy Samberg/Cristin Miloti rom/com, two wedding guests have to live the same day over and over again until their romance breaks into full bloom.
* 50 First Dates -- In the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore smoochfest, Drew’s amnesia means she’s essentially living the same first date over and over until she finally succumbs to love.
* Russian Doll - Poor Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) keeps finding new ways to die, only to find herself instantly back at her own 36th birthday party.
* Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise repeatedly takes on the same alien bad guys until he can finally figure out a way to defeat them.
* Source Code - Jake Gyllenhaal has eight minutes to stop a train bombing -- and the eight minutes keep resetting.
And so on. A bunch of TV comedy episodes (and even seasons) have taken their turn -- Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Aquabats! Super Show!, The Mindy Project, MST3K, My Name is Earl, even the freaking Suite Life on Deck.
There are more, but we feel like we’re repeating ourselves. OK, one more. Taco Bell is selling nacho fries via infinite time loop, with what we assume are infinite bouts of Taco Bell tummy.
So the plots keep repeating. And it looks like that trope will continue, over and over. Per the movies and TV shows, are we supposed to be learning something here?
Maybe we’re all just yearning for a do-over, one more chance to fix the goofs that we’d have avoided if we could have only seem them coming.
Maybe it’s the appeal of the path not taken, an excuse to explore other roads on the map to see if another destination would have been better after all.
Or maybe the trope is just there to remind us that we can always start over, at any time, and at least try to make things better. It’s your destiny, people -- Groundhog Day and its imitators remind us that we’re the only ones with the power to eventually get it right.
For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:
For ComedyNerd exclusive content and more, subscribe to our fancy newsletter:
Top image: Columbia Pictures