Palm Springs – Movie Review

Hulu original movies don’t seem to come around too often. Their newest one, an Andy Samberg comedy called Palm Springs, is probably the first one I have heard of that isn’t a documentary, and this is a fantastic start. We all know how hilarious Samberg is by now, and he gets plenty of opportunities here to prove it. Palm Springs is a breath of fresh air in a world without meaning, and provides an hour and a half of pure fun. The jokes never fail and the plot goes in many insane directions that make the ride even more enjoyable. The movie has surprising emotional maturity and weight, and never resorts to the immature or ridiculous humor that can often ruin comedies similar to this. Samberg and crew know exactly how to play each moment for the maximum amount of humor while keeping the story intact, and this creates a delightful experience for all who watch.

I didn’t know the full plot of Palm Springs going in, and it created a far better roller-coaster-ride of an experience, so I will simply tell you all I knew before watching. Samberg plays the carefree boyfriend of one of the bridesmaids at a wedding, and he clearly does not want to be there. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying anything, his outfit is a Hawaiian shirt and shorts when everyone else is dressed to the nines, and he gets drunk before the reception even starts. We are also introduced to Cristin Milioti’s character, the sister of the bride and maid of honor, who, even though she wants to support her sister, is also drinking her way through this wedding. Inevitably, some romance arises, but when they find out they cannot leave this grating affair, things get complicated. 

About 15-20 minutes into Palm Springs, the plot takes a turn that is impossible to see coming. After this, the movie morphs from a fun but forgettable romantic comedy to a rip-roaring adventure of a rom-com that is as introspective as it is carefree. Once the plot gets moving, one thing that surprised me is how much this film analyzes its own comedy with philosophy and deeper thinking. One of the main themes writer Andy Siara presents to us is the meaninglessness of life and whether the bigger picture is worth stressing about if everything means nothing. Sometimes it’s the little things that truly matter, such as the person one spends life with and the passions one enjoys pursuing. This movie goes deep, and this is far more than I was expecting from a Lonely Island-produced romantic comedy. It also makes the actual dramatic events of this film have far more weight because the philosophies and stakes behind them are crystal-clear.

Despite its deep themes, Palm Springs is a romantic comedy through-and-through, which is both what makes it charming and what holds it back. The chemistry between Samberg and Milioti is ever-present, making their romance believable and causing viewers to care when things get especially rough in the last act. Samberg is the highlight of this movie; he plays his character with a carefree glee through the first half of the movie that injects energy and sarcasm into every plot element. However, when he has to be a little more introspective at times, he never shies away from it, making him a human being and not a hyperbolic comedy stereotype that we too often see in Adam Sandler’s work, just to name one. Most of the funny gags are from Samberg, including a hilarious dance sequence near the beginning where he tries to impress Milioti’s character.

While Palm Springs seems like a unique twist on the romantic comedy premise after the plot shifts early on, once viewers get used to it they will realize they’ve seen it a thousand times before. The script is fresh and funny enough for it to be an enjoyable ride, but anyone who has seen a certain 1993 comedy and a certain 2014 sci-fi thriller, among many others, will know exactly where the plot is heading. In the end, while its specific spin on the modern rom-com is interesting, it never becomes something more than its genre dictates it should be. This by no means makes it bad; for some people, the adherence to rom-com tropes will make it even more appealing, especially since it sometimes subverts those tropes. However, certain writing decisions near the end, such as a weird and pointless fight between the two leads, adhere to tired clichés in a way it didn’t need to.

Regardless, Palm Springs is a hell of a watch for anyone looking for a pick-me-up in this odd time. Looking back on it, this is a perfect movie to turn on when in quarantine and feeling like life has been halted as of late. The main theme is to cherish the little things that one holds dear, and to create our own meaning out of life through these passions which we indulge in. This concept can also be known as absurdism, and is something many of us could look into while stuck inside our houses. The fact that this short Andy Samberg comedy on Hulu goes this deep is something to be commended, and makes for a much more entertaining viewing experience than the average streaming-service comedy. Palm Springs isn’t The Godfather, but it’s the perfect getaway from today’s politic-driven society.

I give Palm Springs a B+.

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