Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in Palm Springs, now streaming on Hulu.
One of my guilty pleasures in this life is a little comedic rap group that goes by the name of The Lonely Island. Raunchy, foul-mouthed, immature, and exceptionally hilarious and clever, the group first made it big when they all got jobs at Saturday Night Live: Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer as writers and Andy Samberg as a featured player. After pioneering SNL Digital Shorts and essentially inventing the viral YouTube video, the group tried its hand at feature film making to a lesser degree of success; while still funny, the two films that they wrote, directed, and starred in, 2007’s Hot Rod and 2016’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, were hardly what one could consider box office or critical hits. I’m still a fan of both, however, and was therefore excited to learn that they had produced another film called Palm Springs. While it was a bit less of a straightforward comedy and much more romcom than I was expecting, I found this Sundance hit to be a charmingly good time if not a wholly original one.
Have you seen Groundhog Day? Of course you’ve seen Groundhog Day; it’s a classic. Palm Springs has a plot much like that of Groundhog Day, but the kicker is that there is more than one person stuck in the time loop in this story. Although the movie does get some mileage from this simple tweak to the living-one-day-over-and-over-again premise, there is no denying that a lot of the themes are almost identical to the those in the 1993 Bill Murray classic. The quest to find meaning in a world free of long-term consequences, the indifference towards life one develops when one becomes essentially immortal, trying to get things right and become a better person… it’s all there. But Palm Springs truly sets itself apart with its love story.
As I said earlier, this is a full-on rom-com instead of being another exercise in full-on silliness and absurdity. The leads, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, have just as many dramatic and romantic scenes as they do funny scenes, and they are both more than up to the task (surprisingly so for Samberg… I didn’t know the guy could act in addition to being funny). This is, undoubtedly, a result of the fact that the guys in The Lonely Island only produced this film instead of writing and directing in it as well (with the exception of Samberg, obviously). The characters they play are not always likeable and their romance occasionally seems a little one-sided, once skewed towards Sarah (Milioti) and then skewed towards Nyles (Samberg), but the two still have great chemistry that kept me invested. All in all, the premise might not be original, but what screenwriter Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow did with the premise was impressive. I should also mention one other big difference between this film and its inspiration: While Groundhog’s Day is a family friendly PG, Palm Springs is an R-rated affair that you should not watch with kids. It thoroughly earns its R rating with swearing, some sexual content, and hard drug use. Also, Andy Samberg gets shot by J.K. Simmons with a bow and arrow a couple of times, but we’ll let that slide.
Palm Springs is now available on Hulu.