Bill Murray: Three Times the Comedy

Before he got
Before he got "Lost in Translation," Bill Murray starred in comedies such as "Groundhog Day," about a man who keeps reliving his day. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
By Curt Fields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 20, 2006

With his recent stints in film consisting primarily of roles in such movies as "Broken Flowers," "The Lost City" and "Lost in Translation," it's almost possible to forget that Bill Murray, he of the sardonic scowl and enigmatic mutterings, started out as a madcap goofball. After all, films such as "Caddyshack" and "Meatballs" are more than 25 years old.

For those who feel nostalgic at that thought, or for moviegoers too young to remember them, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing a three-movie package of Murray comedies -- "Groundhog Day," "Ghostbusters" and an extended cut of "Stripes" ($24.95).

The oldest of the bunch, "Stripes," is slapstick humor about a couple of sad sacks who join the Army to get in shape and meet women. The movie is typical fare -- when you know that it was originally envisioned as "Cheech and Chong join the Army" you pretty much know what to expect. Extras on the disc include an hour-long documentary with interviews from most of the principal players, including Sean Young, P.J. Soles, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold and Harold Ramis. The usually interview averse Murray also shows up, chatting about the movie from an oddly lit location in Tokyo where he was filming "Lost in Translation." There are plenty of amusing anecdotes, warm remembrances of the late John Candy and great stories about the interaction between the young, slightly anarchic filmmaking crew and Warren Oates, a veteran actor of such movies as "True Grit" and "The Wild Bunch."

There are similar extras on "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day," but they're older, less informative and less interesting than the ones on "Stripes." It's funny that what is easily the most lowbrow film of the trio evokes the best discussion of movie-making. It's a good reminder that even if you're aiming low you still need enough skill to hit the target.

Speaking of skill, this package could easily be billed as a Harold Ramis collection. He was a co-writer on all three, directed "Groundhog Day" and acts in all of them. Then again, based on the amount of improvisation that occurred -- especially on "Stripes" and "Ghostbusters" -- focusing on the writer probably isn't the best way to go. Still, when you approach it as the evolution of the Murray-Ramis comedy team, the arc and growth becomes an interesting component to follow.

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