Derivative ‘Palm Springs’ lacks charm and purpose


I dove into the recent Hulu movie “Palm Springs” virtually blindfolded.

I hadn’t seen a trailer or read anything about the comedy starring Andy Samberg, Christin Milloti, and J.K. Simmons. That trio sold me, unfortunately, it was down the river of no return. I thought Simmons is always entertaining, and Samberg can be with the right material. I liked Milloti well enough in her role on “How I Met Your Mother.”

So, why not watch?

Had I known the movie was built around the same plot device as the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day” or the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick “Edge of Tomorrow,” I likely would have skipped it and picked something else.

“Palm Springs” was a half-heated effort. It doesn’t even try to pack the screen with action like the Cruise film, and it woefully falls under the comedic and romantic bar set by “Groundhog Day.”

So, what’s the point of “Palm Springs?”

No, seriously, I’m asking because this movie left me with nothing but wasted time.

Life’s currently too weird, living in my own personal covid-19 bubble where each day seems too much like the last, for me to actually enjoy that plot being inferiorly rehashed.

Who hasn’t felt like they were living a much-more-dangerous version of “Groundhog Day” at some point during the last six months, or maybe an even more odd version of “The Truman Show? Or, perhaps, “The Twilight Zone.”

After watching the Presidential Debate on Tuesday, I’m feeling just a bit too cynical at the moment to enjoy a movie that rams its central theme of “life is what you make of it” down my throat. Even more criminal, the movie is just maddeningly dull, bouncing over territory we’ve seen staged better in so many other movies and TV shows.

While I’ve enjoyed the three principal actors in other parts, leads Samberg and Milloti were unbearably unlikeable as Nyles and Sarah, who have a love/hate relationship in the movie. I understand that watching unbearable characters connect was the central conceit of the movie, but that made it no more bearable to watch.

Simmons works his deadpan charm in the film as the exasperated Roy, who like Sarah also became trapped in the time loop because of Nyles’ incompetence. Roy often hunts down and kills Nyles to seek revenge for cursing him to live a rinse-and-repeat exsistence.

Simmons and Samberg have perhaps the best scene in the movie when a desperate Nyles visits Roy at his home, and Roy explains how he’s learned to cope and actually find some joy while being trapped in the same day for the rest of his existence.

Unless you’re just an obsessed fan of Samberg or Simmons or Milloti, “Palm Springs” is one time-loop movie you might want to avoid like, well, covid-19.

(R) 1 hr. 30 min.
Grade: D

New In Local Movie Theaters

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Halloween Hijinks

While the year has been a nightmare since March, we have officially entered the spookiest month of the year earlier this week and area theaters are getting into the Halloween spirit despite this just being the first week of October.

Why limit the frightening fun to one day, when we can celebrate throughout the month?

The AMC Fiesta Square is getting into the mood with two frightful features this week and one meant for fun by returning “Annabelle: Creation,” “The Nun,” and “Hocus Pocus” to the big screen this week. The Malco Razorback and Malco Towne are also showing “Hocus Pocus” this week.

The Skylight Cinema in Bentonville counters with family fun but still spooky fare each weekend in October. “Hocus Pocus” also plays there tonight through Sunday, while “Coco,” which celebrates the Day of the Dead, plays Oct. 8-11; “The Nightmare Before Christmas” runs Oct. 15-18, “Casper” plays Oct. 22-25, and “Monster House” plays Oct. 29-Nov. 1.

Classic Corner

Friday night is Fright Night this month on Turner Classic Movies with host Ben Mankiewicz and his special guest David J. Skal, a film critic and author who specializes in movies that go bump in the night.

Each Friday night in October, they’ll introduce a slab of classic films especially selected to chill the bones of horror film fans of all ages.

Dracula (1931)

Tonight the festivities open with the grandfather of all talking monster movies “Dracula” at 7 p.m. By today’s standards, the film is rather tame, but star Bela Lugosi set the standard for every on-camera vampire performance since this landmark movie that still has its charms and frights today.

The Cat People

Moody and atmospheric, 1942’s “Cat People” is a nightmarish tale of a young woman (Simone Simone) who stalks the streets at night as a panther. While not as lurid and in-your-face as the Universal horror flicks from the same period, “The Cat People” is one of the best “werewolf-type” movies of its period. It plays at 8:30 p.m.

House on Haunted Hill

A night of horror films would be incomplete without one starring the great Vincent Price. The campy “House on Haunted Hill” from 1959 stands as one of his best chillers of the period as five people are invited to a haunted house party, with the one who stays the entire night earning a prize of $10,000. The campy movie is not to be confused with the Shirley Jackson novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” published in the same year. It wouldn’t surprise me if director and hype man extorodanaire William Castle didn’t title his film so close to the novel in attempt to cash in on publicity from the book. It starts at 10 p.m.

The Haunting

“The Haunting” (1963), however, is a direct adaptation of the Jackson novel, starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. While the movie might be considered tame and a bit stagey to modern audiences, if you allow yourself to be swept up into the story, the film can be frighteningly fun and maybe a bit unnerving. It airs at 11:30 p.m.