'Everything Everywhere All At Once' review: A extraordinary trek into a different kind of multiverse
Courtesy of A24
We’ve heard the term “multiverse” a-lot these days and if you haven’t, you’re probably one of seven people who missed “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” No matter, because Marvel, who until now basically owned the term, have been outgunned, outsmarted, and outlasted thanks to the wonderful and imaginative opus “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Helmed by the directing duo known as Daniels, yes the filmmakers behind “Swiss Army Man,” which was known by everyone as the “movie where Harry Potter played a farting corpse,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was like watching “The Matrix” or “Indiana Jones” for the first time, and by that I mean a rare cinematic experience where you wonder if the entire movie was a hallucination.
It’s a movie that has no boundaries or limitations to how much it can achieve and never condescends to the audience. It’s a movie filled with sprawling ambitions that’ll literally leave your mouth agape. It’s a movie manufactured for the biggest screen you can find, and features a sensational lead performance from Michelle Yeoh. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” rarely takes a breather and constantly evolves, spinning its wheels until ending where you least expect. For Daniels (aka Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), it’s a major step forward in innovation and will easily find its place in the pathos of iconic cinema. I sit here wondering how this sprawling epic was conceived (let alone financed!) without some shameless franchise IP tied into its DNA. No, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was curated and crafted inside the minds of these two gifted directors without any blueprint and they somehow managed to trick a mid-sized studio to let them make it. Bless the rains down in Africa!
The film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, a middle-aged laundromat owner currently staring down the barrel of a relentless IRS audit headed by a sniveling Roz from “Monsters Inc” look-a-like played in a fat-suit by Jamie Lee Curtis. She feels abandoned by her endearing though clumsy husband (Ke Huy Quan who you’ll remember from “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) and usually takes her anger out on daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu - a game changer). During these earlier scenes, it’s challenging to get a read on the dimensions and scope “Everything Everywhere All at Once” might be yearning for (it’s almost entirely subtitled and borders on Chinese farce).
But then a switch flips when Evelyn, aboard an elevator in the IRS office, is greeted by a messenger from another universe telling her she’s the only “Evelyn” with all the power and velocity to save the millions upon millions of universes from a malenovent force hellbent on chaos and destruction. Unlike the Marvel movies which basically copy and pasted the characters into their films with the loose multiverse concept (or use it as an excuse to explain why the X-Men never fought alongside The Avengers because “licensing rights'' doesn't sound as cool), “Everything Everywhere All at Once” tells us these various Evelyns, from the different universes, are imbued with the talents and skills necessary, so that the Evelyn we meet at the beginning of the movie can fight a war on her own. First, however, she’ll need to establish a mental bond with each of them through several creative methods the directors cook-up.
Yes, that entire description might sound confusing, but in context and the way it’s unspooled is anything but. Once you get past this initial set-up, it gives the film permission to take as many wild swings and creative liberties as it chooses, which is something you can’t usually say for a Marvel film. Yeoh, known for her credits in “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” plus “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” has never been better.
The embodiment of the Evelyn’s showcased throughout the film (in one universe, she’s a major movie star and in the next, a martial arts guru with, uh, super pinky strength) is top tier. But amid all the frenetic madness and hysterical moments of self discovery, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” casually finds time to simmer down and study Evelyn’s family dynamics, which is a huge driving force in the film. It helps the entire cast, especially Yeoh, are up for the challenge of hammering down the dramatic bullet points alongside the swift and gonzo action sequences.
Nobody expected to hear from Daniels after “Swiss Army Man” came and went with a polarizing response back in 2016, but they’ve come back swinging and have delivered what will surely become a multigenerational movie that’ll never stop offering surprises or nuances with each viewing. The possibilities are infinite.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE opens in wide release Friday, April 8th.