“Groundhog Day” is overrated. There, I said it. Granted, I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I don’t recollect it doing a whole helluva lot for me … and I love Bill Murray. Perhaps I’m due for a rewatch? The funniest Murray’s ever been on screen is in the Farrelly brothers’ “Kingpin” and in all honesty I tend to prefer the dude in more serious fare and/or tragicomedies like “Rushmore,” “Lost in Translation,” “Broken Flowers,” etc.
The only reason I bring up “Groundhog Day” is that it’s the comparison everyone drops when talking about “Palm Springs,” now available for streaming on Hulu. People either say it’s a rip-off of “Groundhog Day” (it’s really not) or that it’s an R-rated version of “Groundhog Day” starring Andy Samberg (it sorta is). Either way, I greatly prefer “Palm Springs” and it ain’t even close.
Samberg plays Nyles, the plus-one of his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner), at the Palm Springs, Cal.-based wedding of Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Tyler Hoechlin). Nyles finds a nearby desert cave housing a rift in the space-time continuum, which he falls into resulting in him living the same day over and over again. Others eventually join Nyles in the repetitious cycle whether through excessive partying (J.K. Simmons’ Roy) or via a botched hook-up (Cristin Milioti’s Sarah).
Sarah happens to be the black sheep sister of the bride. Once she and Nyles are stuck in the loop together they spend their days drinking, doing drugs, generally just screwing with other people and genuinely taking a liking to one another. In time Sarah tires of the tedium whereas Nyles has been stuck in it so long he’d be afraid to leave if he even knew how.
“Palm Springs” is written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakow. It’s the feature debut of both after having toiled away in shorts, documentaries and television for the better part of a decade. These gentlemen really bring their respective experience and creativity to the fore. This is one hell of a calling card. “Palm Springs” truly nails the romance and the comedy of a romantic comedy. The sci-fi elements of the story sing too.
Much of the reason “Palm Springs” works as well as it does rests on the shoulders of Samberg and Milioti. These two have real-deal chemistry. I’ve been a fan of Samberg’s for some time now whether it’s via the albums and videos of the Lonely Island, his longstanding gig as Jake Peralta on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or in hilariously underrated movies such as “Hot Rod” and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.” The dude’s damned funny here. I’m not as familiar with Milioti – mostly identifying her with the titular matronly role on “How I Met Your Mother” and as the first wife of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Not only does Milioti hold her own with Samberg comedically, she may arguably exceed him … her character’s the more complex of the two to boot.
It could be the furlough talking as I haven’t worked my day job since the end of March, but I really related to Samberg’s Nyles. At one point Sarah asks him what he did prior to the loop and he says he can’t remember. I can remember my gig, but I’ll likely have difficulty remembering how to do it when and if I ever go back. Additionally, I may be in danger of earning the nickname of “Mr. Hyperbole” after awarding “The Old Guard” a five star/Yap review yesterday and bestowing the same honors upon “Palm Springs” today, but I’ll be damned if both pictures didn’t earn ‘em. They make a nice double-bill to boot with a surprising amount of thematic similarities.