Review: Michelle Yeoh's reluctant heroine powers dazzling, dizzying 'Everything Everywhere'
A bonkers and bizarrely wonderful genre mashup, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is finally the multiverse movie that we can all relate to. Sure, there’s no Spider-Man or Doctor Strange, but there are folks with hot dog hands.
Written and directed by Daniels (aka Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), “Everything Everywhere” (★★★½ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday) stars Michelle Yeoh as a reluctant hero who just wants to get her taxes done but is instead sent off on a wild and emotional sci-fi family kung fu adventure. The movie has three distinct acts matching the audience’s changing experience: You have no idea what the hell is happening at first, then sit back and immerse yourself in the alternate-universe craziness until the film finally karate-kicks you right in the feels.
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For laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), life is all a bit much. She’s being audited by the IRS, planning a Chinese New Year party in the community, dealing with her aging father (James Hong), not seeing eye to eye with her lesbian daughter (Stephanie Hsu) and struggling in her marriage to kind dude Waymond (Ke Huy Quan).
By the time she meets with a prickly IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn doesn't need any more stress in her life. That’s when an "Alpha" Waymond from another reality invades her husband’s body and tosses her a nutty truth bomb: Multiverses feature different versions of her life spun off key choices, and Evelyn's help is paramount in stopping a “big evil” named Jobu Tupaki (also Hsu) with nihilistic tendencies and a humongous everything bagel that threatens, well, everything.
That pretty much lines up with what you’d expect from the guys who made Daniel Radcliffe a farting corpse in 2016's “Swiss Army Man.” But in “Everything,” they go to extreme lengths with the core multiversal conceit, creating one of the most arresting visual smorgasbords since the first “Matrix."
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To take on Jobu, Evelyn "verse-jumps" and gets a whirlwind glimpse at all these other versions of how her life turned out. Some embrace the absolutely absurd, like the world where she has hot dogs for fingers and another where she’s a boulder with googly eyes. (There's also a fun running gag involving a raccoon version of “Ratatouille.”) Others teach her important lessons: To learn how to fight, she visits the world where she was trained as a martial arts master and comes back to her reality as a two-fisted dynamo. She also experiences a narrative where she didn’t marry Waymond but became a Hollywood star and still reconnects with him.
Yeoh, who’s played more serious roles in films such as “Crazy Rich Asians” in recent years, recaptures the heroine of her early Hong Kong action film days and plays off the film’s ridiculous aspects. Quan is also a delight to watch: Gen X kids will appreciate the young star of “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in such a multifaceted, impressive comeback of sorts. And newcomer Hsu marvelously navigates a kaleidoscope of colorful personalities.
The stellar performances ground the brain-breaking stuff in “Everything.” At nearly 2½ hours, there’s just a lot to take in. If you weather the initial wave of confusion, you’ll be OK – and might even want to come back for seconds, since the dazzling dizziness invites another round to see what you missed.
This metaphysical film (and love letter to cinema) asks us to peer through all the madness of real life and find what's important. In Evelyn’s case, her predicament is truly out there, yet the heart of the matter involves less apocalyptic, more everyday aspects like questioning her marriage, pondering how things might have been different and what her elderly dad will think of her daughter’s girlfriend.
“Everything Everywhere” is an action-packed club sandwich of weird, but also a splendidly human experience to cherish.