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‘Palm Springs’ is entertaining riff on ‘Groundhog Day’

Gray Areas

Certain filmmakers are recognized for their influence.

Just about every dsytopian science fiction film since 1982 draws inspiration from the look of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.” Every teen-driven rom-com / rom-dram on Netflix uses John Hughes’ creative output as its blueprint.

But few people in the film business helped create an entire genre the way Danny Rubin did.

Who’s Danny Rubin?

He wrote the screenplay for “Groundhog Day.”

The Bill Murray comedy about a cynical, self-absorbed weatherman forced to relive the same day again and again and again was a hit when it was released in 1993, and its reputation only has grown over the years. But especially in the last decade or so, more and more filmmakers have put their own spin on the concept.

Some do it blatantly (“Happy Death Day,” which gives it a horror twist); others borrow its structure (the 2011 thriller “Source Code,” Tom Cruise’s 2014 action film “Edge of Tomorrow”) to tell very different stories.

“Palm Springs,” which debuted Friday on Hulu after setting a record for its purchase price at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, definitely falls in blatant category.

Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, who is the plus one of his younger girlfriend (Meredith Hagnar), a bridesmaid at a destination wedding. And he is forced to keep reliving that wedding day, possibly for eternity.

Andy Siara’s screenplay comes up with one brilliant wrinkle in the formula — Nyles isn’t alone in reliving this nightmare — and it also benefits from our own international nightmare.

Stay-at-home orders and pandemic safety measures had many people living in what felt like an endless, repetitive loop. Days blurred into one another.

“Palm Springs,” which was completed back when people thought coronavirus was what caused skunky beer, wasn’t intended to speak on our current situation, but it’s hard not to think about it while watching the breezy 90-minute comedy.

Cristin Milioti, who starred on Broadway in the musical “Once” and probably is best known as the mother of “How I Met Your Mother,” plays the sister of the bride, a commitment-phobic woman who bonds with Nyles after he rescues her from an awkward wedding reception toast.

Samberg and Milioti are appealing together, and the movie’s one improvement on its inspiration is Milioti is a better actor than Andie MacDowell ever was.

I think some of the praise for the movie is excessive. Calling it one of the best films of 2020 says more about disruption in the distribution pipeline caused by COVID-19 than the quality of the movie. But “Palm Springs” works as a rom-com that delivers a simple message — even the most repetitive journey can be made pleasurable with the right person riding on the passenger side.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@ tribtoday.com.

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