This review contains spoilers
While Marvel might be the predominant figure in the Hollywood sphere in terms of multiversal moviemaking, the concept doesn’t belong solely to them. Enter A24 and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the latest effort from directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, credited and more commonly referred to as Daniels, that’s just as large-scale and multidimensional as it is small-scale and heartfelt.
I must admit that the trailers for the film made me skeptical. The googly eye jokes, people having hot dogs for fingers and a whole slew of other millennial-askew jokes made me more than doubtful of Daniels’ abilities to follow up their charming and unique feature film debut “Swiss Army Man.” But any worries or doubts I may have had going into the film dissolved once I fully gave myself to Daniels’ weird, lighthearted and refreshingly silly world.
The film follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) as she continues to navigate an audit by the IRS against her failing laundromat. Evelyn seems to give herself entirely to her job, leaving no room for her to pay attention to her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu).
Yeoh finally gets her long-deserved time in the spotlight in this film, commanding every single second she is on screen. She truly becomes the character of Evelyn, deftly balancing between multiversal hero and struggling mother and wife.
It’s this balance between these truly out-there ideas and extremely relatable and grounded themes that made a film like “Swiss Army Man” stand out, and “Everything Everywhere” is no different. Daniels never forget about the conflict that’s truly at the heart of the film — Evelyn trying to connect to her daughter — which helps to ground the more out-of-the-box elements in the film.
The film is still largely about Evelyn needing to save the multiverse from a malevolent figure known as Jobzu Tupaki, a version of Evelyn’s daughter Joy from another universe that was experimented on by her version of Evelyn which granted her special multiverse-traversing powers. It’s a pretty standard villain arc, but this familiarity helps the audience focus on understanding the logic of Daniels’ multiverse rather than the intricacies of the villain’s plot.
That being said, Daniels do a good job of explaining just how everything works in a very typical “our hero knows nothing so we can have someone explain everything to them and the audience without it coming off as out-of-place” fashion.
Given these more traditional and cliché elements, it would be easy for the film to become just another bland sci-fi odyssey with nothing to add or say. Again, Daniels’ focus on the family drama at the core of the story helps keep the film uniquely heartfelt while their distinct knack for incorporating very dubious and immature elements help to separate it from anything else in the genre.
Even through every hot dog finger and googly eye, I did still find myself begrudgingly chuckling at the absurdity of it all. Daniels are completely aware that some people may find their brand of humor too immature, and they actively acknowledge that within the film. They’ve certainly got some grand ambitions on their mind, but what’s a butt plug joke here and there going to do?
This is what makes the film feel even more meta and self-analytical than it already is. The main theme of the film is realizing that love triumphs overall and not giving in to nihilism. Yes, nothing matters, but isn’t that the beauty of it all? That’s what Daniels seem to think at least.
So, as the credits roll and you’re probably wiping the tears from your face, you might ask yourself, “Wow, what did I just watch?” The answer is right there in the title; it’s got almost everything, it takes you almost everywhere and it all seems to be happening all at once. Even if you didn’t manage to keep track of it all, you will surely have had fun.
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John Scott is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JScott050901