Hot dog fingers, black hole everything bagels, Ratatouille-inspired raccoon hibachi chefs, and “Clair de Lune” performed by Jamie Lee Curtis’s pianist toes are just a few of many flamboyant gags in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who title themselves under the assemblage “Daniels”)’s magnum opus of a film, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” While these references may strike as silly, doltish, over-the-top or sophomoric, these descriptions are what make “Everything Everywhere All at Once” the film of a lifetime (or lifetimes, for that matter). The film is one of many stories in the current trend of attempts to depict the multiverse. While the concept may be becoming overdone or exhausting (any recent or upcoming Marvel blockbuster), Daniels’ approach provides an original and eccentric explanation that ends up being one of the most amusing, emotional and gratifying science fiction films of the 21st century.
The film tells the story of Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant who is dealing with the overbearing stress of owning a laundromat being audited and the tumultuous relationship with her husband and daughter, who both seem to be falling out of love with their cold wife and mother. When Evelyn is recruited to fill the trope as the “chosen one” of the film, she must learn how to jump between parallel universes, all existing from different choices Evelyn would have made in her past life. By jumping through the universes, Evelyn is to defeat the antagonist of the film who is planning to destroy the multiverse through a vast, all-encompassing, bagel-inspired black hole. (The plot gets extensively more complex, and explaining it could take up a novel, thus this short summary must suffice.) The result of the hilarious and action-packed film is a story about unconditional love, kindness and a reminder of how incredible it is to exist, all told through hopeful nihilism.
Evelyn and the various versions of herself existing throughout the multiverse are played by 1990s kung fu heroine phenomenon Michelle Yeoh. Her husband and daughter and their alter egos are played by Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, respectively. All performances (not to forget a uproarious performance by Curtis like you’ve never seen her before) are phenomenally acted out in ways that evoke emotion from the audience and create connections as if the viewer was living through the relatable characters. The actors also provided most of their own stunts throughout their incredible “Kill Bill”-esque fighting sequences, choreographed by the talented Andy and Brian Le. While the actors give their characters realistic on-screen lives, the writing and directing of these characters must be attributed to as well. Daniels co-wrote and co-directed the film, giving their signature foolishness seen in previous familiar works such as the dead-man puppet Daniel Radcliffe-lead “Swiss Army Man” and the viral phenomenon of a music video for Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What.” While the latter serves as a funny and trippy interpretation of a song, audiences familiar with “Swiss Army Man” know that Daniels know how to balance the outlandish with heart, creating sequences where the audience is shocked, grossed out or cackling one moment, and then crying and contemplating existential concepts the next. This is exactly what “Everything Everywhere All at Once” does, and it does it for two and half hours of the wildest ride of your life.
There are definitely bound to be some critical viewers, who may not appreciate the erratic, fast-paced silliness of the film. Some may complain that some storylines brought up in the film (reference opening line of this review) are juvenile and make the film hard to take seriously. Do not go into this film expecting to take it extremely seriously, and do not be expecting to enjoy every minute. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” might get a tad obnoxious or annoying at moments, but one must look past this when viewing. The film takes place across many universes, all which have different styles and feels to them, and this is essential to the story being told. If one is not willing to look past the silliness in some aspects of the film, they will never truly understand the message and meaning the story is trying to convey. The movie is not perfect, but this is one of the aspects about it that makes it all the more enjoyable.
A roller coaster of a film filled with action, laughter, thought-provoking points and love, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” takes the done-to-death multiverse movie and gives it a revamping that major movie studios have yet to do. Filled with incredible performances, striking visuals and a storyline with an overarching important life lesson, Daniels bring a film that is destined to change lives and the way movies are created across all universes.