In 1993, The film Groundhog Day, directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray, was released. While only somewhat successful in its initial theatrical run, the film has grown to be a modern movie classic, one of the best directorial efforts of Ramis’s, an iconic starring role for Bill Murray, and comedy film which introduced the incredibly memorable “repeating the same day over” story. This story was so new and memorable that it’s spawned a host of knockoffs, aping the plot for themselves. From Happy Death Day to Edge of Tomorrow, the repeating the same day plot has been put in multiple movies of varying genres. Recently this plot has found its way back into the comedy genre, with the Hulu original movie Palm Springs.
Palm Springs stars Andy Samberg as the cynical and nihilistic Nyles, who has been stuck in a time loop repeating the same day (a wedding he’d been invited to) countless times. Over the course of being stuck in this time loop, Nyles has managed to trap other people in this same loop, from the elderly family man Roy (played by J.K. Simmons) to the sister of the bride Sarah (played by Cristin Milioti). When he accidently gets Sarah trapped with him, the two join forces to attempt to finally exit the time loop, while at the same time falling for each other.
The chemistry between the two leads is inarguably one of the highlights of Palm Springs. Samberg and Milioti play off of each other very well and are able to make a somewhat derivative film concept fresh. The scenes of them experimenting with what they are capable of through repeating the same day repeatedly are elevated by the on-screen romance. The setting of Palm Springs also helps make a somewhat stale concept remain entertaining. Audiences have seen characters in these sorts of scenarios become more jaded and crestfallen, but this becomes even more effective when juxtaposed with a wedding, a place (typically) filled with love and emotion. The film also manages to be thoroughly funny and entertaining, and Samberg’s Lonely Island-type humor can mesh particularly well with the plot in several scenes.
While the film is in some ways able to escape the staleness brought on through recycling this type of plot, it does not escape entirely. The scenes of Samberg and Milioti experimenting with the time loop, while entertaining, still do not come across as completely original, the way other films with time loop plots (i.e. Edge of Tomorrow) do. Another detriment to the film is unfortunately Samberg’s acting. While perfectly good in a comedic film, Samberg seems unable to truly commit to the sadness and jadedness his character is supposedly experiencing, and mostly comes across as just childish. Comparing this with Bill Murray’s performance in Groundhog Day and Samberg comes up even shorter. In that film, Murray was not only to play a comedic role, but was also able to express the immense struggle his character goes through, while still managing to be funny and entertaining to the audience. The film also suffers from a middle section, starting around the forty minute mark and continuing until roughly the third act, that loses some of its prior momentum, although J.K. Simmon’s character goes a long way to make up for this during these parts.
Ultimately, while the film benefits from some unique distinctions, Palm Springs never quite manages to elevate itself above the time loop plot as seen in other, better films. As it stands the film is certainly an entertaining watch with good chemistry between the two leads but would have benefitted from a more original take on the time loop concept, and a lead actor more suited for more dramatic situations. The film is currently available on Hulu and is certainly worth the time for anyone looking for a solid romantic comedy, but they should be ready to feel, just like the characters in a time loop movie, like they’ve seen this sort of film before.