To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a sci-fi comedy film written and directed by Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). Featuring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis, this is the second film by Daniels following their feature-length debut, Swiss Army Man. The story follows Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American businesswoman, who discovers that she must connect with alternate versions of herself across the multiverse to help stop the destruction of them all.
Opening on a cluttered dining room table, a seemingly overwhelmed Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is organizing business receipts with her husband, Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan), due to their laundromat being audited. On top of having to meet with IRS inspector Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn’s father, Gong Gong (James Hong), has just arrived from China, In the midst of all of this, Evelyn is trying to plan a Chinese New Year party for the community while Waymond is trying to get her to sign divorce papers.
While talking with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), she and Evelyn begin arguing over telling Gong Gong about Joy’s girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel). Joy and Becky drive away while Evelyn, Waymond, and Gong Gong head to the IRS building. In the elevator, Waymond’s body is taken over by Alpha Universe Waymond, who tells Evelyn about the multiverse and how the late Alpha Evelyn developed “verse-jumping” technology that allows people to access the skills, memories, and bodies of their multiverse counterparts. Alpha Waymond gives Evelyn “verse-jumping” technology because he believes her untapped potential can allow her to defeat Jobu Tupaki, a villain who’s been hunting Evelyns across the multiverse.
The idea of the multiverse is nothing new with studios making films about the concept across different genres for years. There’s the 1998 rom-com Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow that shows two paths the central character’s life could take depending on whether she catches a train. The 2001 sci-fi action flick The One starring Jet Li as a rogue agent who travels to parallel realities to kill other versions of himself to become a mythical super-being. The Oscar-winning 2018 animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse followed Miles Morales being introduced to different Spider-People from other realities (inadvertently paving the way for Tom Holland’s third live-action Spider-Man film). More recently, the MCU has had a huge multiverse storyline with Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Daniels does a lot right with managing the characters and their emotions while differing them from their multiverse counterparts. This allows the actors to show their range by pushing them to change personas at the drop of a dime. A few actors, such as Quan, Hong, and Curtis, get to do this throughout the film but Hsu gets to have the most fun. Jobu Tupaki’s ability to verse-jump without technology allows her to experience all universes at once and manipulate matter at will. So not only do we get to see Hsu play five different versions of herself in one scene, but we also get to experience the many outlandish outfits that the costume designer (Shirley Kurata) can think of to match them. Some of the fashion on display in this movie looks right out of New York Fashion Week. There are costumes ranging from glittery matador to golf chic. Occasionally we get a peek into some of the alternate universes. While most are the same as Evelyn’s home universe some are rather unique. Favorites include the “Rock Universe” where there are only rocks, “Hotdog-finger Universe,” where people have long wiener shaped fingers, and “Raccatouille Universe” which is somewhat based on the Pixar’s Ratatouille. The humor involved with “verse-jumping” is hilariously grotesque at times. Thankfully, the Daniels are not above censoring their work, much to the relief of my wife and other members of the audience.
At its heart, Everything Everywhere All at Once is about a daughter wanting to reconcile with her mother. It’s touching to see how ugly love can be. There were times I was reminded of Pixar’s Inside Out, as many of the loving scenes come right after a moment of sadness or anger. Evelyn even explains to Jobu Tupaki that she just wants what is best for her. Just like she wants for her Joy. She may say things that come across as hurtful, but she is being truthful with her daughter. This is universally relatable because most people have some trouble communicating with people they love, especially when it comes to family.
The movie’s main issue lies with its length, logic, and loose ends. It is not explained how “verse-jumping” technology is brought to the main universe as only Jobu Tupaki can manipulate matter. The characters go through life-changing events in just a few hours, but by the end of the film, everything seems to be fixed. It isn’t explained what happened to Jobu Tupaki or anyone else from the Alpha Universe and if we are still following the same Evelyn we met at the beginning of the film. The story tries to cram so much into such a short time when much of the nonsense could have been cut for a tighter narrative. At the same time, it would have been great to explore more about the Alpha Universe and the “verse-jumping” technology Alpha Evelyn created. So, either Everything Everywhere All at Once should have been 20 minutes shorter or longer and divided into a six-episode limited series.
Overall, the story is interesting and occasionally enjoyable but the film itself is extremely unfocused and a bit too long. I give Everything Everywhere All at Once a Solid 6.5/10. This multiverse story shoots for the moon but doesn’t stick the landing. And as any martial artist will tell you, landing your punches is critical.