Weddings – fraught with family secrets, clandestine hookups and unruly guests – offer an almost foolproof setting for comedies as different as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridesmaids. Time loops have become almost as reliable for romantic comedies, with Groundhog Day inspiring variations like Fifty First Dates. Palm Springs mashes up the two by setting its time-loop romance at a wedding, creating a genial film with a mildly irreverent spin on both its genres. What the film lacks in originality, it offsets with sharp performances from Andy Samberg as an out-of-place wedding guest and Cristin Milioti as the bride’s sister, who would rather be anywhere else.
Samberg plays Nyles, who goes to a destination wedding at a Palm Springs resort with his girlfriend. He shows up at the formal ceremony in a red Hawaiian shirt and yellow shorts, the first sign that something is askew. Samberg smoothly plays a version of the character he has honed so well as Detective Jake Peralta on his television series, Brooklyn 99. He seems like a goofball, but is smarter than people think and decent to his core.
Milioti is Sarah, the dejected maid of honour, who tells Nyles she is the family screw-up because she drinks too much and sleeps with too many men. Milioti makes Sarah a prickly character, but likable, and more complicated when the film reveals her biggest regret.
The pair meet after Sarah is too paralysed by wine to give the wedding toast, and Nyles steps in to save her with a perfect, eloquent speech. In an antic scene that sets off the plot, they are about to have sex in the desert, which only happens after he spots his girlfriend cheating with another man in the bathroom. They are interrupted by a man shooting arrows (JK Simmons in a small but crucial role). Sarah wanders into a cave and wakes alone in her bed the next morning, which is the very same day as the one before. Nyles has repeated that day countless times already. “It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about,” he tells Sarah, who gives him a death stare.
The wedding is less important than the story’s loopy elements. There are a few funny glimpses of how Nyles and Sarah spend their time, with some scenes loaded into a familiar rom-com montage. They steal a two-seater plane, which they fly and crash. They won’t die. They’ll just wake up in the usual place the next morning. They put a bomb inside the wedding cake so Nyles can heroically find and destroy it. Don’t ask where they got a bomb. The film doesn’t pretend to be interested in explanations, a choice that suits its easy-going tone just fine.