Review: Everything Everywhere All at Once — Movies for the Rest of Us with Bill Newcott

Everything Everywhere All at Once is that insufferable child whose haughty parents trot her out in her tap shoes, then watch your face to make sure you register adequate amazement.

(Photo: Allyson Riggs/A24)

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Everything Everywhere All at Once

⭐️ ⭐️

Rating: R

Run Time: 2 hours 19 minutes

Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis

Writer/Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

These days, it seems, Everything Everywhere All at Once is everywhere — and all at once. The sci-fi juggernaut about a laundromat owner who learns she has countless other selves existing in an infinite number of parallel universes has racked up a Titanic-class boatload of awards and is on track to be an Oscars night behemoth.

I kind of hate it.

Smugly proud of its in-your-face cleverness; poundingly frenetic in its storytelling; the film keeps applying defibrillator paddles to its exhausted narrative when, in reality, it has no heart to begin with.

I know it’s kind of late to be weighing in on the movie that, in a few days, may well sweep the Oscars (It’s got 11 nominations, including Best Picture). Everything Everywhere All at Once premiered way back in April 2022 — and as such is an Oscars rarity: A movie that opened early in the year yet kept its bandwagon rolling all the way into the Awards Season.

That week, I chose to review Aline — a spectacularly quirky Canadian musical/biography of Celine Dion — simply because I liked it better, and I’ve always felt the valuable real estate of this column is best-used pointing readers to movies they will actually enjoy.

I stand by that editorial choice: I’m not sure I’d want to sit through Aline a second time, but I do know I’m sorry I’ll never get back the 2 hours and 19 minutes I spent enduring Everything Everywhere All at Once.

For one thing, can we all agree the Parallel Universe Genre is played out? Frank Capra got away with it in It’s a Wonderful Life, it was cute in Sliding Doors, but then The Butterfly Effect started taking it seriously, and before long TV’s Rick and Morty was making it a weekly thing. Enough already. Like time travel, parallel universes have become the refuge of uninspired screenwriters.

The parlor trick of parallel universe movies is to make all the loose ends meet up for the finale. That can be readily accomplished, I can tell you as a writer, by constructing the whole thing backwards — knowing where you are going to end up and then sending your various threads of reality hurtling off into disparate beginnings.

That’s the easy part. Once you’ve created all those incarnations of a character, the challenge is in making your audience actually care about them. And this is where Everything Everywhere All at Once comes up short. Michelle Yeoh is remarkable as Evelyn Wang — and all her variations — but once the film establishes that there are infinite versions of Evelyn, it’s tough to become attached to any of them. After all, one Evelyn is just as good as any other; just different.

As an IRS auditor who is also a monster from another dimension, Jamie Lee Curtis gives the film’s most gratifying performance, skillfully revealing the soft side of an initially caustic character — offering the charming possibility that there may be infinite versions of each of us right there in our present universe. Curtis may well deserve a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Everything Everywhere. But as Viola Davis proved in Suicide Squad, it’s possible to be a truffle in a bowl of stone soup.

Meanwhile, as its constantly confused and frenzied figures rocket between realities, bark angry orders at each other, and hurtle through elaborately staged martial arts scenes, one gets a sense that the preoccupied filmmakers are only occasionally taking a breath to look out at their audience and say, “Oh — are you still here?”

Everything Everywhere All at Once is that insufferable child whose haughty parents trot her out in her tap shoes, then watch your face to make sure you register adequate amazement at her Buffalo turns and Bombershays. You can’t help but appreciate the kid’s skill and preparation — but gawd, how you wish it were over.

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  1. these comments are spot on (except the ones from those who shot you down). I have read a lot of reviews where people praise this movie and have come to the conclusion that a high percentage of viewers have no fundamental values; are extremely vulnerable to deception and live in a warped, distorted view of reality. A type of dream-world.
    I am shocked but should not be surprised because the time we are living in is so far advanced in apostacy, sin and deception. This film stood for everything that is not from God the Creator. A Bagel? seriously? As Jeanette (March 14) said: Soul-Sucking. I watched this movie in sessions because I just could not endure the drawn-out script/story, it really was exhausting. And I feel terribly sorry for Jamie Lee Curtis who now has to use THIS film as a basis for winning an Oscar when her performance as a truelly brilliant actress could/should have been rewarded with a string of other movies. The same goes for Michelle Yeoh. In my opinin? This movie is a fail

  2. It’s too bad you didn’t like it. I went into watching the movie, knowing it was a comedy and LOVED IT! And I guess I’m in the minority with this group. And that’s too bad, because I thought it was brilliant. I am NOT a sci-fi person, but the different dimensions and the cinematography made it a movie that I actually watched twice (and I’ve only done that with one other movie – It’s A Wonderful Life). It was a comedy, it was a romantic film and it was science fiction, all rolled into one Oscar winning movie.

  3. In my part of Asia (Taiwan) this movie does not have the impact it seems to have in the West. We saw it yesterday and I quickly got tired of the visual effects applied in repetition. Tired to the point of falling asleep.

    Hard to see the Asian cast and the story of the family as anything different than a rather superficial gimmick/stereotype here. Plenty of opportunity for interesting stories to explore that I can think of. None materialized. But thanks for making Asians look like they are humans.

    We are left with parallel universes idea with added “funny” elements meant to make us laugh.

    Seems like an art school project on a Hollywood budget. A+ for good intentions! How to read the Zeitgeist from the fact that it won all these Oscars? For historians to put in context 25-50 years from now.

  4. I disliked the film and agree with your review. I appreciated the contrived emotional ending, but it wasn’t worth sitting through two, long hours to get there. The fine actors were wasted in roles that demanded little of them. If I could have chosen the best film of the year from the ones I saw, it would have been Babylon (breathless in scope, true emotion) or Triangle of Sadness (new brilliant film from a favorite director). My thought at the end of the evening was, well, at least Avatar didn’t win.

  5. This seems like a film whose reach exceeded its grasp. There were elements of inspiration there, but they were mostly poorly executed.

    I like the idea that ordinary life typically includes many unrealized possibilities, and the accompanying notion that there were different possible paths that not only could have been taken, but actually *were* taken, and that somehow we might connect to those other possible lives, and that such contact might be brought back into our original lives to enrich our understanding of what we are doing and who we are.

    But those simple concepts got drowned in a sea of gratuitous fight scenes, and these, along with their associated “verse-jumps” became more repetitive than significant.

    In the end, the domestic tensions that started the film were mysteriously resolved, even though there was nothing in the jumping between universes and alternate selves that I could see that would have clearly led to any kind of epiphany.

    There was only the kind of relief that comes from the mental exhaustion of having gone through so many divergent experiences and then finally returned to one’s original life, with its boring but stable continuity. But the return to laundromat-Kansas was not accompanied by any enhanced self-knowledge that would have made that all-too-ordinary reality something more rich than it had been before.

    Maybe buried somewhere in the film was the concept that the scarecrow (husband) and tin woodsman (daughter) and lion (father) in Oz (all the jumping around between universes) were really the same people Dorothy had known in her limited Kansas environment (laundromat/family world). But that kind of revelation, though it may have been there, certainly didn’t jump out at me while watching this film. Again, I think the idea was in there somewhere, but its realization was not well-executed, and thus added to the “something is missing” feeling I got from enduring this film.

  6. I too hated this movie and I went searching for reviews from critics and people that had the same reaction. I’m glad I found some. I feel vindicated.

  7. Frenetic. Insufferable. Empty. Meaningless. Soul-sucking. Wish I’d stayed home and done something meaningful, like the laundry.

  8. I’ve been scouring the internet to find the best worst review — and you’ve won. Congratulations! Thank you for publishing such a self-important, grumpy, unnecessarily petty, and embarrassingly acidic review. To be so out of touch with what the vast majority of everyday people love about cinema is a real accomplishment. I hope readers know better than to take your advice… what a disservice!

  9. I’ve never seen a movie so ridiculously overpraised. It was different, and it’s nice to see something from an original screenplay that isn’t a sequel or part of a franchise, but damn, eleven Oscar nominations? Seven wins? I have the feeling there was something I just didn’t connect to that everyone else just loved. As someone who thought Babylon was the best picture of the year, maybe I’m just not connected to the current zeitgeist.

  10. I love quirky sci fi. My favorite part of this film besides the part before it started and when it ended….the 2 rocks quietly sharing in the silent desert.

    So can someone explain the positive reviews? Is there a cult behind the scenes?

    I’m troubled.

  11. Thank you for putting into words my feelings of distaste for this movie. Reminded me of my hatred of the much over hyped Inception from 2010.

  12. The takeaways you have from watching this film feel like you’re reviewing the experience of reading one of your reviews.

  13. How boring you are. It’s a weird film but it’s also funny. I’m glad it won lots of Oscars.

  14. Am watching the Oscar awards whilst posting this review. Can someone remind me whether Jackie Chan ever made a movie entitled ‘House Of Flying Butt Plugs’, please? As the title of the film under review implies, it’s inclusive to the max : sub-titles; the main protagonists are ethnic / gay / both; there’s homage to other movies; bullet time; a role for the offspring of Hollywood ‘royalty’;kitchen sinks etc. Basically, it’s a family psychodrama on acid, posing as sci-fi. All I know is that for me, as well, it’s 2hrs 20 mins of my life that I’ll never get back again. I predict though that it’ll be a box office smash; in fact, there’ll be many box offices smashed, because of people trying to get their money back. ‘American Beauty’, it ain’t. One critic has written, “it’s that…..[rare kind of movie that succeeds in being]….. both overwhelming and underwhelming. After only a little while, you’ll desperately long to be simply whelmed”. LOL. That’s a very accurate appraisal.

  15. The frenetically tap-dancing kid is a perfect analogy for the exhausting experience of watching this film. It’s certainly a virtuosic cinematic performance, but like those endless prog rock guitar solos of old, rather vapid and vacuous – a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little.

    It is simply the old story of a mother and daughter coming to terms with their difficult love for one another, and the tedious cosmic pyrotechnics could all have been all left out to the benefit of the film. I too regret the 139 minutes the film robbed from my life, but thankfully, its soporific effect put me to sleep for 20 of them.

  16. Thanks, Bill. I trust your judgment and will not waste any money on Pay Per View if/when this comes to DirecTV. Actually, the words “sci fi” and “martial arts” were enough to turn me off!


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