Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as Daniels, follow up their previous feature – the strange and bittersweet oddity Swiss Army Man (my review of that one HERE) – with the strange and bittersweet oddity Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) runs a laundromat with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), but they are on the brink of divorce. She is rushed off her feet planning a party for father Gong Gong (James Hong) and preparing for an audit at the tax office. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot on her plate. On the way to the meeting with the auditor, Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn is approached by Alpha Waymond, a Waymond from another dimension. He reveals the Alpha Dimension possesses technology enabling them access to all other dimensions – and all other possible versions of oneself. This technology, known as Verse Jumping, allows the jumper to absorb the skills and knowledge of their alternate dimension counterpart. Unfortunately, there is an evil Verse Jumper called Jobu Tupaki who is intent on destroying the multiverse. Evelyn is the only one who can stop it.
There’s really no way to accurately describe Everything Everywhere All at Once, suffice it to say that it’s a unique and wildly imaginative movie. It’s science fiction, it’s martial arts, it’s family drama. A pressure cooker of weird ideas, concepts and flavours that really shouldn’t go together, yet somehow blend perfectly. We hit the ground running and Daniels throw everything at us from minute one; the first half hour or so is bewildering, but fun, chaos. A word of advice, just roll with it. Get lost in the bizarre events and impressive fight sequences; you’ll get the gist of what’s going on when Alpha Waymond eventually takes a moment to pause and explain things to Evelyn.
Multiverses seem to be a big part of the science fiction zeitgeist at the moment, thanks in no small part to Marvel’s cultural domination. But they’re not a new idea and certainly not one that Marvel has the market cornered with. Super-underrated action-adventure The One saw martial arts legend Jet Li trying to become the most powerful Jet Li of all, by killing off every interdimensional version of himself; Everything Everywhere plays like an Opposite Day interpretation, as Evelyn attempts to channel all her multiverse duplicates into one.
Everything Everywhere’s surreal and cryptic sensibility makes it feel like the deranged offspring of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and John Dies At the End. Each one of these cult sci-fi oddities lean heavily into a dense and loosely explained multiverse theory – and then crank the weird-o-meter straight up into the red zone. But don’t let those comparisons give the impression that Everything Everywhere is anything less than a wild and crazy original. It would be mean-spirited to spoil the surprise of encountering it for the first time, but it’s no spoiler to suggest looking out for a novel use of a bum bag, and a magnificently stupid (and therefore amazing) homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The cast is also incredible. Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis are fantastic, as you would expect, and it’s always huge fun to see Yeoh exercising her martial arts expertise. Stephanie Hsu is very fun to watch and clearly having the time of her life as Joy. But the absolute best casting element is including appearances of inimitable stars James Hong and Ke Huy Quan. Those of us of a certain vintage have Hong’s screen presence imprinted on our childhoods, thanks to his ubiquity in almost every 80s action TV show and appearance in Big Trouble In Little China. While Ke Huy Quan was Short Round from Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies! His return to acting in Everything Everywhere is like he’s never been away.
Everything Everywhere All at Once leaves us with a lot to unpack. Mind-bending science fiction, middle-age ennui, strained familial relationships, wasted potential, existential confusion, and Kung Fu – it’s all in here. It’s the type of movie you want to re-watch as soon as the credits start rolling, because it’s overflowing with vivid imagination, oddball humour, big ideas and even bigger feelings. Love it or hate it (and I loved it), you can’t deny Everything Everywhere All at Once is a true original.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ opened in U.S. cinemas on March 25th and opens in Australian cinemas on April 14th.