Dir: Giulio Manfredonia. Italy/Spain/UK. 2004. 94 mins.
Why would anyone want to remake a film as unique as Groundhog Day' The only original thing about this bland, inoffensive attempt to do just that is the fact that it is a European remake of an American film. Producer Riccardo Tozzi's claim that this is the first time that this has ever happened had this reviewer rifling through the archives. True, the remake traffic has mostly been in the other direction, but there has been at least one tasty exception: Marcel L'Herbier's sinewy 1937 Forfaiture, a remake of the Cecil B DeMille silent classic The Cheat. At least L'Herbier had something to add to DeMille's 'yellow peril' melodrama , which is more than one can say for Giulio Manfredonia, the director of Stork Day (the Italian title, E Gia Ieri, translates as 'It's already yesterday'). Still, the Rubin-Ramis screenplay - which cost the producers a mere $150,000 in remake rights - makes its pedigree felt through the uninspiring adaptation, like the pea through the mattresses of the fairy-tale princess, and audiences in the two main co-production territories of Italy and Spain who are not familiar with the original may give this a spin.
On its opening weekend, the film took a respectable but unexalted Euros 456,923 from the 73% of screens monitored by Italian industry monitor Cinetel - though the fact that another opener, the bleak redemption drama 21 Grams, did exactly twice as well as this feelgood comedy will not come as encouraging news to distributor Columbia TriStar Films Italia, which must have expected more from the pulling-power of the film's star, alternative comedian and TV personality Antonio Albanese. And it will not cheer producer Cattleya either, which stumped up most of the film's Euros 4m-plus budget. Alternative comedian Albanese is a strong (but not failsafe) draw in Italy, while Goya Toledo (and the Spanish setting) may interest Iberian and Latin American audiences. Outside of the two key co-production territories, this has only marginal, cine-curio value.
Looser and less focused than its model, Stork Day scores highest when it simply reproduces, in its Canary Islands setting, the original gags and the original dramatic tension of this man-stuck-in-the-same-day metaphysical comedy. Its additions - Spanish colour and an eco-friendly message - are hardly designed to complement and energise the storyline. After all, the whole point of the original setting, the town of Punxsutawney in upstate Pennsylvania, was that it was exactly the kind of place you would not want to get eternally stuck in - especially not at the beginning of February. A sun-kissed island in the Canaries is hardly in the same nightmarishly provincial league.
Bill Murray was a cynical, misanthropic TV news presenter sent to report on the annual 2 February weather-forecasting ceremony involving a groundhog called Phil. Albanese is a cynical, misogynistic TV nature-show host sent to report on an anomalous breeding colony of storks in the Canary Islands - well away from the bird's usual nesting grounds. Albanese does the stroppy and manipulative media diva well, but he doesn't have Murray's gift for deadpan irony. He makes a decent stab at conveying the bewilderment, then despair, of an imperfect man condemned to live the same day over and over again; and the slow build of his relationship with the prickly love interest - Spanish actress Goya Toledo - is managed in a way that feels almost more real, less tricksy, than the Murray-MacDowell rapprochement in Groundhog Day.
In the end, though, a great pall of pointlessness hangs over the project. Yes, it's fun to hear the radio DJ give his 'Buenas dias dias dias dias dias!' wake-up call - the first time it happens, at least - and spotting other similarities and divergences will keep film buffs briefly occupied. But it ain't enough. More a Pierracioni-style rom-com than a philosophical comedy with real bite, Stork Day never breaks out of its own loop in the time-space continuum.
Production co: Cattleya
Co-prods: Producciones Cinematografica, Flamenco Films, Stork Day UK
Italian dist: Columbia TriStar
Italian distributor: Columbia TriStar Films Italia
Producers: Riccardo Tozzi,Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz
Screenplay: Valentina Capecci, Giulio Manfredonia,Andres Koppel from the screenplay by Danny Rubin, Harold Ramis
Cinematography: Roberto Forza
Production design: Juan Carlos Suarez Bodelon
Editor: Roberto Martucci
Music: Mario De Benito
Main cast: Antonio Albanese, Fabio de Luigi, Goya Toledo