In spite of its wallowing, stout body, the groundhog--also known as a whistle-pig--is not family to Babe or Charlotte. Instead, the groundhog is part of the rodent family which, for decades, have taunted Hollywood's greatest film stars. As America pays tribute to groundhogs on this February 2nd, let's not overlook the dark, antagonizing side of the rodent.
Of Unknown Origin (1983)--Before his big breaks as Buckaroo Banzai and RoboCop, Peter Weller combated a mutated rat. Recently moving into a stunning NYC brownstone, Weller's life is ideal. But then the telltale scampering begins. The scope of terror is magnified one hundred times greater than the actual size of the fur-ball, as Weller undertakes a thrilling (and hilarious) all-out sledgehammer battle to the death, to quell both the rodent and the demons in his head.
Two Gophers from Texas (1948)--With voices by Stan Freberg and Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam), two super-polite and rather fey gophers, Mac and Tosh, served as Warner Brothers' post World War II answer to Disney's Chip and Dale. Over ten years, the pair of rodents starred in eight films--the gold standard of which was the 1948 prototype for the eternal chase by Wile E. Coyote. A theatrical dog decides to rediscover his primordial instincts by hunting for his dinner. In his first exploit, he rigs up a falling rock trap tied to a radish patch. Ultimately, the dog ends up in a grand piano as the pair of rodents play the keys and the piano hammers rap-tap-tap on the dog's rump.
The Great Outdoors (1988)--Though raccoons aren't exactly part of the rodent family, these tiny-pawed, garbage-eating bandits are far worse than any groundhog! In this touching pairing of John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, two ill-matched brothers battle the elements, dysfunctional family members, and yes, an insistent pair of raccoons in an endless chuckle fest of adversity. PHIL BUSSE