DIRECTORS: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

CAST: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Talie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Biff Wiff, Sunita Mani, Aaron Lazar, Audrey Wasilewski

RUNNING TIME: 139 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A laundromat owner (Yeoh) must save the multiverse from a dangerous, but close, threat…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

It hasn’t been two months since its release, and nearly everybody is ready to call Everything Everywhere All At Once, the multiverse-spanning action movie from writer-director duo Daniels (made up of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), the film of 2022 – not just the best film of its year, but the film of its year, kind of how something like The Matrix was considered to be the defining movie of 1999. In some areas, I can see why, for it displays a level of imagination, creativity, ambition and sophistication that is undeniably impressive, and arguably not seen since the Wachowskis’ game-changing genre entry.

In all honesty, though, in terms of dubbing it the greatest thing to have ever been willed into existence like so many others have already, I’m not exactly on that bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a very, very good movie, but I’m not so sure if I’m ready to completely sing its praises just yet. It’s one of those films that probably needs at least a couple more viewings to fully appreciate, so much of what you’ll read here are just my gut reactions to that first initial screening. Again, I want to reiterate (in case some people are gasping in disbelief): I was very much enjoying what I saw, albeit with some minor reservations.

The film is about Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a laundromat owner who is struggling to take care of her business, while at the same time tending to her elderly father (James Hong), and neglecting the needs of both her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), who is secretly filing for divorce, and their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) who just wants her mother to accept her girlfriend Becky (Talie Medel). However, while at a meeting to discuss taxes with IRS inspector Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is auditing the laundromat business, Evelyn is suddenly transported to another universe, where an alternate version of Waymond tells her that she is one of infinite Evelyns across an equal amount of universes, and that all of them are being hunted down by an omniscient being known as Jobu Tupaki, an alternate version of Joy. Now, in order to save all the universes, Evelyn must learn to tap into the abilities of her many, many selves in order to defeat Jobu Tupaki and restore balance to the multiverse.

In many ways, the title Everything Everywhere All At Once is very apt: the movie is, indeed, a lot of things, in a large number of locations, throwing whatever it can to the wall until it sticks. To give a taste of the film’s packed-to-the-rafters insanity, there are fight sequences with bum bags (or fanny pack, if you’re Stateside), touching lesbian dramas in a world where everyone has hot-dog fingers, a parody of Ratatouille with a raccoon instead of a rat, pinkie fingers that develop bicep muscles, death by dildo (and butt plug), and a doomsday bagel that metaphorically serves as the living embodiment of a character’s nihilism – and that’s not even half of it. Often, it feels like so much is going on, all whilst keeping the focus on the story and its central characters, that it threatens to crumble at just the slightest touch; however, it is the strength of Daniels as writers and directors that it stays strong amidst the chaos, continuously coming back to its emotional core which offers a deeply simple yet utterly endearing message about kindness and love, which generates a surprisingly wholesome tone in a film where, again, a raccoon fills in for the rat in a Ratatouille parody.

You can tell that Daniels grew up watching a lot of kung fu action movies, because their film contains action scenes that feel as though they’re straight out of a brutal Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee flick, with excellent fight choreography and, most pleasing of all, a total disregard for Newton’s laws of physics as bodies fly all over the room with a single flick of a finger. The Daniels’ direction allows for nearly every punch, kick, flip and scream to be felt all over, in part thanks to the tremendous performances they get out of all their actors. Michelle Yeoh, herself a dignified action movie star, delivers a wonderful lead performance that is both physically and emotionally testing, and the actress commits to every single strange thing that Daniels has her do, whether it’s playing a movie star clearly modelled after Yeoh herself, or serenading Jamie Lee Curtis with her hot-dog fingers. It’s also great to see Ke Huy Quan – best known to audiences as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and as Data in The Goonies, who here makes his return to acting after working behind the scenes for twenty years – back on the screen, still with that lovable energy that made him such a revered figure as a child actor, and with a lot of seriously awesome moments that could very well paint him as an unlikely action movie star in his own right.

There’s definitely a lot to really, really enjoy about Everything Everywhere All At Once, but I’m still not in that category of people who accept it as their new Lord and saviour. Even at nearly two-and-a-half hours, the movie speeds along at a considerable pace, only stopping intermittently to deliver some vital exposition; however, some of it goes by so fast that I started to become a little confused as to how certain things are supposed to work, what kind of rules there are when going from one universe to the next, and even which versions of our main characters we were focusing on at that moment. The movie is already rather exhausting to absorb, on account of so much happening simultaneously, so to initially feel lost amidst it all feels like I’m either struggling to catch up, or the movie doesn’t exactly give the best clarity in the world. Perhaps repeat viewings will make certain things a lot clearer, but right now, I’m still trying to piece it all together, even as I write this review.

Once more, I need to stress that I did really like this movie – it’s definitely unique, highly imaginative, and a ton of fun to watch – but I didn’t feel as invigorated and transformed by it as I did with, say, The Northman. Regardless, it’s one to check out if you’re curious to see how, exactly, Ratatouille with a raccoon is supposed to work.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a highly imaginative and impressively made experience which boasts excellent action and a strong emotional core, though its admittedly exhausting sense of chaos can be initially hard to absorb.

Everything Everywhere All At Once will be released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 13th May 2022 – click here to find a screening near you!

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