Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy, Adventure, and Martial Arts Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: April 8th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert Actors: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate

 


 

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s Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) prepares for a Chinese New Year’s party, that same evening she must also contend with cooking food for her elderly father (James Hong), consternation over her daughter Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) girlfriend (Tallie Medel) – whose introduction will be a bit of a shock to the family’s old-fashioned sensibilities – and sorting paperwork for an ongoing IRS audit of their Simi Valley laundromat business. On top of all of that, Evelyn’s husband (Ke Huy Quan) is about to serve her divorce papers. “Stop playing! We don’t have time!”

Into this hectic evening comes a series of electronically-linked glitches, suggesting that something is very amiss. Sure enough, figures from alternate universes begin appearing amid Evelyn’s exhausting mental burdens, forcing her to participate in a maddening mission to save the world – or at least her sanity, as Alphaverse warriors from the year 3657 struggle to persuade her to hear them out. “Trust no one!”

It’s ostensibly about thwarting an unstoppable evil corrupting infinite alternate realities, but the film is actually centered around considerably more grounded concepts – ranging from mending a frayed mother/daughter relationship, to understanding life choices, to appreciating the little things, to embracing the exasperating smallness and insignificance of the individual. Plus, there are poignant notes on happiness, confusion, potential, fear, futility, and self-acceptance; without a doubt, there’s a striking profundity lurking just beneath the unending weirdness. “The bagel will show you the true nature of things.”

“Strange” doesn’t even begin to describe the visual nuttiness of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is soon an onslaught of quirky, funny, violent, sometimes disgusting ideas that grow exponentially freakier as the film progresses. In many ways, the plot resembles a Marvel superhero premise, though this is far more unexpected, imaginative, and unsettling. Brilliantly, the heady sci-fi themes rarely take on the hi-tech look of modern spectacles, instead finding themselves at home among commonplace locations filled with ordinary office workers (it makes so much of so little, particularly with sets and props and decorations) and the excitement of rapid editing between colorfully-costumed nemeses, uncomfortable behaviors, bizarre animation, and disparate multiverse counterparts. Channeling “The One,” “The Matrix,” “12 Monkeys,” “Back to the Future,” “Ratatouille,” “Southland Tales,” “The Fifth Element,” and “Time Bandits,” among many other speculative works, while still maintaining a distinct freshness, this highly original piece teems with satisfying narrative chaos. “This doesn’t make any sense!”

As trippy as it is, it’s also incredibly sweet, examining choices, paths, temptations, and possibilities with a deft tenderness; it’s as much of a love story (alternating even between motherly love, sisterly love, spousal romance, and off-the-wall sexuality) as it is a sci-fi opus of the grotesque. It’s frequently as endearing as it is hysterical and startling, as touching as it is absolutely wild. A lot of it works thanks to Yeoh, who wields an emotional authenticity alongside her martial arts skills – which this project puts to use, as it favors kung fu brawls almost too much, intermittently to the detriment of the deranged creativity of cream cheese, googly eyes, and raccoons (each of which are unforgettable). The running time carries on a bit long, particularly with the story divided into three parts, but the repetition – and the unpredictable bizarreness – never bores. It’s difficult not to be impressed with a picture that tackles the lessons of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, the insights of a purposeful existence, and the meaning of life itself – while also giving in to the laughable insanity of pummeling security officers with prodigious dildos, or postulating the evolutionary advantages of rubbery, boneless, hot-dog-like fingers.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10