Palm Springs

At the Movies Blog

If a day keeps repeating…chill in the pool.

I’m really good about doing reviews without spoiling any aspect of the movie. Yet in telling you the premise of this, you could argue it gives some things away. Yet any description of this story will do that. So for me to state that it’s another Groundhog Day premise, you get it. The day is going to repeat over and over, and shenanigans will ensue.

There are two things detours from Groundhog Day that add a lot of appeal to this story. The first is that a woman who is being seduced, gets sucked into the day repeating. That means instead of the Bill Murray character doing all kinds of crazy stuff because of his plight, you’d also have the Andie MacDowell character and her nicer personality. The other thing that’s different is that it’s Andy Samberg snark instead of Murray. Something about his face just makes me laugh, and when he throws away lines, I’m always cracking up. Whether it’s on his TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine or on screen. I was pleasantly surprised when one of my cigar buddies made me watch his sports film parodies on HBO (Tour de Pharmacy and 7 Days in Hell ). They’re hysterical. And thankfully, so is this. 

Samberg plays Nyles, who has accompanied his girlfriend to a wedding in Palm Springs. He’s rather aloof because…he’ll be attending this wedding for many, many days to come. 

Even though he attends the wedding in a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks, and is buzzed from drinking all day, he can steal the show with a perfect wedding speech. That catches the eye of Sarah (Cristin Milioti). They grab some booze at the bar, and sneak off to hook up. She mentions his girlfriend, and there’s an interesting scene dealing with that. Another interesting scene involves J.K. Simmons, going full Ted Nugent with war paint and crossbow, hunting Nyles down. I won’t give away the details of that, but it was a brilliant casting decision to get an actor of his caliber. Simmons has two scenes later in the movie, that couldn’t be more different, and they’re terrific.

Once Sarah gets stuck in this time loop with Nyles, I won’t tell you where the story goes. Sometimes it’s predictable, but mostly we are treated to unique comedic stuff. There’s an incredible scene with a motorcycle mama at a bar (played by terrific character actress Dale Dickey, who is great in films like Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace, and has the look of someone you’d see in a dive bar). You’ll laugh at what she says, and what Nyles says later about their interaction.

A lot of credit goes to screenwriter Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow, although I’m confused about how the filmmakers of Groundhog Day can’t sue. I’m going to talk to an entertainment lawyer soon and figure that all out; it created a two hour debate with my wife, who also liked this movie; and Groundhog Day is her all-time favorite film, but I digress.  

There are some dark moments in this movie, and that is refreshing. It might have been boring to just have a series of jokes similar to Groundhog Day. And yet it’s also refreshing that the jokes are a hipper style, and some clever stuff you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years (for example, at one point, there’s a bomb discovered in the wedding cake; that might be the most inspired bit of comedy I’ve seen all year). 

It’s also a bit of fun when, for example, a time travel movie you think about what you would do if you were sent back to 1957. In this, you wonder if you’d be more like Nyles or Sarah, and you can understand both of them taking the directions they take. And one of my pet peeves in movies is when characters don’t act in a rational way. Even J.K. with weapons…is a bit understandable.

I thought of the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow as well. Obviously, because that keeps repeating itself, but it was more from a scene at the wedding reception when Nyles can dance perfectly with each person, since he knows the movies they’re going to bust out on the dance floor. It reminded me of Cruise avoiding punches from his platoon in the barracks. 

On paper, I wouldn’t think this movie has a chance. Yet that’s me underestimating the comic timing of Samberg and his deadpan delivery. He can tell us he went to Equatorial Guinea while on crystal, and you die laughing. He can talk about having sex with someone at the wedding, and instead of thinking of him as a pig, you smile.

The soundtrack is perfect. There were two John Cale (Velvet Underground) songs. Two former Byrds — Gene Clark and Gram Parsons provide tunes; we heard “Forever and Ever” which is appropriate for a time loop flick. The disco-y “Megatron Man” is fun for the dance number. There’s also Leonard Cohen, 10,000 Maniacs, Los Straitjackets, Kate Bush, and ending the film with the seldom heard Hall & Oates track, “When the Morning Comes.”

4 stars out of 5, and you can watch it on Hulu.

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