Where have you gone, Punxsutawney Phil? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo. Or if you’re like me, you turn your eyes to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin’s Jimmy the Groundhog, who’s twice the groundhog than that punkass Phil could ever be. And we all turn our eyes towards some groundhog because Groundhog Day is upon us. In honor of these titans of weather prediction, here are my seven favorite cinematic rodents.
Scooter the Groundhog, Groundhog Day
I would be a complete and utter moron if the first rodent listed wasn’t the groundhog from Groundhog Day. And apparently, his name was “Scooter”. Thank you, IMDB. Here’s Scooter showing off his acting chops. This film did for acting groundhogs what Billy Madison did for guys in penguin suits.
This is the second film on the list that deals with rodents and a Christ-like ability to avoid death. Alas, that’s where the similarities end. All the same, Mr. Jingles’ presence played a pivotal role in the third act of The Green Mile, leaving us to ponder just how long Paul (Tom Hanks) would live.
The Gopher, Caddyshack
Martin and Lewis. Hope and Crosby. Astaire and Rogers. Fine acting duos, all. But none match the two-film firepower of Murray and Rodent. Granted, he was paired with a gopher in one film, and with a groundhog in the other. But I think we can all see that nobody serves as a rodent straight man better than Bill Murray. Had this duo worked together more, perhaps they would’ve re-written cinema history.
The dalmatian mice, The Royal Tenenbaums
Our list turns back to dramatic rodents, this time with the dalmatian mice that Chas Tenenbaum bred and sold to a pet shop in Little Tokyo in the 6th grade. These same mice metaphorically grow up into an actual dalmatian (the dog kind, not the rodent kind) when Royal has won his family back. Astoundingly, that’s three of the best cinematic rodents that have starred next to Bill Murray. He’s the Tiger Woods of making movies next to small furry disease-bearers.
The gopher village, O Brother, Where Art Thou
The Coens might be the only filmmakers that could make a gopher-consumption scene in a parable to Homer’s Odyssey work to the effect that it did in O Brother, Where Art Thou. I can’t even keep a straight face while thinking about the dialogue.
Delmar O’Donnell: Care for some gopher?
Ulysses Everett McGill: No thank you, Delmar. One third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without bedding it down.
Delmar O’Donnell: Oh, you can have the whole thing. Me and Pete already had one apiece. We ran across a whole gopher village.
The squirrel, Christmas Vacation
We’ve seen mice, gophers, and groundhogs thus far, but no squirrels. And the other squirrel option for this list was the poor little bastard that got shot, skinned, and cleaned in Winter’s Bone. I opted for lighter fare- the squirrel that ultimately wrecked Clark Griswold’s Christmas tree, thereby keeping their family Christmas out of the realm of “the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye”.
Nice Marmot, The Big Lebowski
If Bill Murray is the King of working with rodents, then the Coens must be the Duke. The look on The Dude’s face there is exactly the appropriate reaction to having a marmot that close to your “chonson”.