Not just a knockoff, it's one of the year's best movies

Since we’re all watching new movies that were made well before the pandemic, it’s a nice bit of synchronicity when one also feels right for this moment.

So while travel is limited, take a trip to “Palm Springs” on Hulu, one of the best surprises of 2020.

Nyles (Andy Samberg) wakes up on the morning of a Palm Springs wedding with his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner). He makes his way reluctantly through the day, making it clear he’s not looking forward to the wedding (and getting thoroughly drunk at said affair).

But he hits it off with Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the sister of the bride, and they head off to the desert for some alone time. Then we learn that they’re about to be trapped in a perpetual time loop, reliving this same day over and over again.

So, yes, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. “Groundhog Day.” But where “Palm Springs” elevates itself to one of the year's best rom-coms is what it does with the concept.

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Nyles and Sarah are trapped in this loop together, and writer Andy Siara does a great job of exploring this dynamic. It’s a couple that gets an infinite number of opportunities together.

Fair warning: This is what my friends would describe as a “Brad movie,” so it’s right in my lane. Smart, sharp-witted romantic comedy with two equal leads and a dollop of dark humor.

Yes, “Groundhog Day,” but for me a little “His Girl Friday” and some “Dr. Strangelove.”

There’s a healthy dose of dark with this comedy. Nyles and Sarah can do nothing to escape their one-day loop, and that includes suicide. So there are some great bits involving them exploring this world without consequences, particularly when a wedding is part of this every day.

Samberg is the big name, of course, and “Palm Springs” is produced by his Lonely Island cohorts, but it’s never quite as zany and highbrow-lowbrow as their usual material. It’s actually a very layered performance and one that indicates he could do a serious drama.

But Milioti is the revelation, the heart of the movie as she takes the opportunity to self-reflect and let Sarah grow. Add a great supporting cast including Hagner (who I’m currently loving in “Search Party”), Camila Mendes (“Riverdale”) and the always great J.K. Simmons in a role too fun to spoil.

In fact, I’ve left out a lot of the details, because this is also a solid time-travel sci-fi movie. Who knew quantum physics could be so fun?

Under the steady direction of Max Barbakow, “Palm Springs” is also the ideal movie for some escapism of a world where every day can feel exactly the same. It’s the frontrunner for best comedy of this strange year, and one of the best overall.