I love Groundhog Day because it offers something new every time I watch it. And on my most recent visitation, I noticed something really cool about the snowman-building scene.
You see, up to that point, Phil Connors has been using a system of trial and error to manufacture the perfect date with his producer, Rita Hanson. He keeps repeating the same 24 hours over and over again, so he can just learn a new tidbit about Rita’s personality one night and then use it to his advantage the next night to slowly win her over. But after a lot of failures, everything just clicks as he builds a snowman with her. He is effortlessly charming as he produces the right accessories for the snowman’s face and then defends Rita from some kids when a spontaneous snowball fight erupts. Their date turns into pure magic from then on until Phil finds a way to spoil it at the end. He tries to shake off the mistake and recreate the magic of building the snowman and engaging in a snowball fight, but the whole thing comes across as phony. The timing is off and the delivery of his lines is forced. He seems way too energetic. The first time, he briefly mentioned hoping to build a snowman with his own children one day, but the second time, he goes overboard with that idea, saying that he wants lots of kids and even asking to adopt the kids he’s playfully fighting with. In the end, he tries to get close to Rita, like he had before, but she is having none of it. She recognizes that Phil is a fake, and she soon slaps him and walks away in a huff. And no matter how many times he tries to do different things to win her affections the way he had the first time, they always end in failure.
My epiphany is that this is what most sequels feel like. They all too often try to recreate what everyone loved about the first one while emphasizing all the wrong things.
The Matrix is like Phil’s first time building the snowman while The Matrix Reloaded is like the second time he tries it. The filmmakers couldn’t recreate the magic of the first film, so they just amped up the self-important tone to 11 and acted like they had something important to say in the sequel. And it fell right on its face. The same could be said of many other sequels, such as Fletch 2, all of the sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Speed 2, Iron Man 2, Batman and Robin, The Lion King 1 1/2, Escape from L.A., etc.
So whenever you want to pull up a mental image why many sequels don’t work, you can just think about this brilliant scene from Groundhog Day because that sums it up nicely.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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