Fair warning: you’re going to need to sit down after the 2 hours and 20-minute action-sci-fi romp that is “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The viewing experience of the Daniels’ newest film can only be compared to drinking red eyes as if they are fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot summer afternoon. And while an adrenaline-pumping movie about the multiverse and featuring martial arts sounds like something of Jason Statham’s filmography, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” rises above what easily could have been mediocre material that would have been lost in the shuffle of comic book movies that are still high on their multiverse supply. It’s perhaps the most original film to have come out in years, and even the prolonged third act can’t stop the film from being the best film of the year by a wide margin.
It’s hard to even think where to begin when talking about this film. Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) are an aging Chinese immigrant family who live a mundane life. The couple runs a failing laundromat that is being tormented by the IRS at every turn. Evelyn and Waymond live a loveless romance that is on the verge of tearing apart. On top of that, their daughter is slowly drifting apart from her family as she has her own personal obstacles to deal with. Then, during one fateful meeting with their auditor, Deidre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn is roped into a quest spanning the multiverse.
The multiverse is a well that seemingly every franchise cannot stop going back to. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” just brought two past actors back into their roles, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” looks like nostalgia galore, and the “Flashpoint” movie has just about every Batman actor ever returning. But “Everything Everywhere All at Once” creatively uses the multiverse in a way that won’t hurt your brain or require you to suspend all disbelief. Maybe it’s the sensory overload of colors and ideas that make the multiverse more digestible, like cream cheese to a bagel. That isn’t to say that you’re going to be recruited by an inter-dimensional version of your partner, but the film doesn’t just bring back random characters and chalk it up to “the multiverse.” Yes, random science terminology is thrown around, much to Evelyn’s dismay, “You’re just making up sounds,” says Evelyn to the “alpha” version of her husband, but it’s not taking itself seriously like Marvel attempts to with their usage of the word, “quantum.” Thankfully, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” never features a scene where Evelyn runs the risk of ruining past events by interacting with her past self. Maybe the recent film, “The Adam Project” doesn’t help matters, as Mark Ruffalo delivers the same speech about how you run the risk of affecting other realities that he did in “Avengers: Endgame.”
Ke Huy Quan has seemingly been MIA since “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” What a welcome return his performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is. He has the ability to switch between the “doing his best” husband and complete badass, or “alpha” version of Waymond who spends his time wearing the VR headset found in “Ready Player One.” Look no further than the fanny pack scene (which really serves as the tipping point for the absurdity of this film). This scene, which sees Waymond beat the daylights out of multiple people with a fanny pack, felt straight out of a Jackie Chan movie except after Chan was first introduced to caffeine. It’s an exhilarating sequence that is enhanced by the camerawork and the true absurdity that you are watching. The funniest part of seeing Ke Huy Quan, however, has to be that his cadence — specifically when yelling — still sounds like Short Round.
Michelle Yeoh is an awesome actress, so nothing short of phenomenal is expected from her. She goes above and beyond as Evelyn, behind-the-scenes photos showed Yeoh doing her own stunts, making her performance all the more impressive. Evelyn is more than an ass-kicking machine, however. She made the decision to leave her family in China, much to her father’s dismay and dissatisfaction, and then went to America to be with Waymond and begin a new life there.
There’s something resounding about the idea of not living up to your full potential. Leaving your family expectations to run a laundromat in America may sound like the textbook definition of not living up to your potential, and that’s something that Evelyn struggles with. The struggle of taking out the same frustrations on her own daughter and seeing how that pushes her away is magnificently resounding. Yeoh is phenomenal in the tender moments whether she realizes she’s been handed divorce papers or she can’t say what she actually needs to when speaking to her daughter. The latter is especially poignant; there’s a visible struggle on the face of Yeoh and her mannerisms show a very guarded person who can’t put it down resulting in her telling her daughter “You need to learn to eat healthy — you’re getting fat.”
And Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) struggles, while mainly the result of Evelyn’s own scars, is relatable for every teen who had that phase. You know the time when you slammed the door on your parents and blared “rebellious” music on your headphones? Joy takes parental resentment to a whole new level filled with kick-ass fighting and Elton John-like outfits. In the scene where her mother calls her fat, Hsu portrays equal emotion in the scene as Yeoh. On one side, Evelyn has trouble expressing herself, and you can see that she’s holding in so much. On the other side, her daughter, Joy, is absolutely heartbroken and torn to shreds because her own mother can’t a.) fully accept her, and b.) say what she wants to say.
The only complaint, albeit a forgivable one, is that while the first two acts of the film will have you completely locked in, the third act feels prolonged. The film had its cake and wanted to eat it, too. It’s not bad, per se, the film just feels close to a climax and then continues on for 20 minutes. Without spoiling too much, the third act sees Evelyn attempt to “heal” people instead of fighting. The issue is that she heals almost every single person in her way; showing their lives change for the better in other universes. It’s a cool, if not a tad bit cheesy, moment that would’ve been better had it restrained itself. But again, the first two acts are so goddamn incredible that this meandering third act is forgivable.
A film that ranges from everything bagels, family, fanny packs, and auditors has no right to be as original, funny, heartfelt, and weird (in a good way) as it is, yet “Everything Everywhere All at Once” finds a way to do it. Despite a prolonged third act, the first two hours of the film do enough to not let that third act drag down your perception of the film. The action is electric, the comedy hits, the performances are great all around, and the usage of the multiverse is refreshing. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the best film of 2022 thus far, and it’s a must-see once it is available “Everywhere All at Once.”
A24 will release “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in select cities on March 25 before its wide release on April 8. The film will also have a one-night-only IMAX engagement in select theaters. For more information, click here.