Grade:  B+/A-

Drama-Fantasy Adventure

Rated R

I’m beginning to wonder:  has a generation of gamers accustomed to living virtually on multiple levels led us to the point where many films going forward will also happen in multi-dimensions?

Although physicists and philosophers have been arguing about the possible existence of a multiverse (it’s not scientifically provable yet) since the 5th century BCE, and while the first mention of an alternate, simultaneous universe in pop culture seems to have been  back in 1961 when “Flash of Two Worlds” appeared in the Flash Vol. 1 No. 13 comic book, it has taken Hollywood decades to catch up.

But once Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse caught a wave of public approval in 2018, we’ve since gotten two non-Hollywood films about the “multiverse” and also Legends of the Multiverse (2022), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Teen Titans Go! & DC  Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse (2022), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023), and a 2023 TV series, Mila in the Multiverse.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)took the multiverse to another level, winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Film Editing. That’s quite a haul for a film that won’t be for everyone. Some films are ahead of their time, but Everything Everywhere All at Once is a visual and narrative mind-blower that almost feels retro—like it could have come out of the late sixties and early seventies, if they had had the visual fx technology.

I’m not going to pretend that I understood everything the film threw at the wall to see if it would stick, but I think I got the gist of it.

At one point Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) says, “So even though you have broken my heart yet again, I wanted to say, in another life I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.” He’s speaking to his wife, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), with whom he runs a Laundromat and laundry service and lives above the business with her aged father (James Hong) and their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), with whom Evelyn butts heads.

Evelyn is having an Uncle-Billy-lost-the-money crisis—and yes, there’s a noticeable reference to It’s a Wonderful Life, as there is to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other films. Evelyn’s system of accounting is all messed up, and her own system overloads when the family has to bring all their records to a tax audit with a no-nonsense tax examiner named Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), and when her increasingly estranged daughter announces that she is a lesbian and introduces her to her “friend,” Becky (Tallie Medel).

That’s when, instead of a fantasy in which a guardian angel shows someone that his life is significant and special, a multiverse fantasy accomplishes the same purpose with Evelyn. Most multiverse movies are about superheroes, and that premise is used here to good effect, where we see Evelyn’s battles against the IRS and her daughter dramatized and explored in fantastic dimensions of alternate existence.

Is it for family viewing? The message is positive, if you can pick it out of the images and  actions that come at you as fast as the starscape in a Disney ride, and today’s youths see a similar level of violence in video games. But this film has gotten a lot of press and will spark the curiosity of a lot of children asking their parents if they can watch the film. If they’re ‘tweens and older, I would say, yes, because Everything Everywhere All at Once feels like a milestone.

I don’t know what was more impressive:  the acting, or the visual effects. The multiverse gimmick (yes, I went there) gives the main actors the chance to explore their characters across a wider range of emotions and personalities than a one-dimensional film, and all of them rise to the occasion. They go all out, and every scene is fun to watch because of that.

But this film doesn’t happen without the visual effects, and, hard as it is to believe, the team that created the effects wasn’t professionally trained. They taught themselves how to do it by looking at various Internet sources and tutorials. How impressive is that?

Then again, the film is such a wild ride with strobe-like effects and multiple cuts that the editing was just as impressive as everything else.

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won a well-deserved Oscar for their rock solid  (ahem) direction, pulling career performances out of Curtis and Quan, for whom the film was the first since he appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies as a child actor. My only complaint is that some of the fantasy battles that Evelyn faces with her demons and nemeses can start to feel a bit long and repetitive as the third act of this 139-minute film rolls downhill to its conclusion. But that’s my only criticism.

As I said, Everything Everywhere All at Once won’t be for everyone. It’s a strange film that pulls so many visual images, pop culture allusions (hot dog fingers? pet rocks?), and alternate selves (and therefore, realities) out of Evelyn that you can fully imagine people in the psychedelic sixties “grooving” on it. But ultimately the film left me (and no doubt others) with one impression:  if we are the heroes of our own stories, then maybe, just maybe, the multiverse is different for each of us . . . and a product of our own imaginations.

Entire family:  No (‘tweens and older)

Run time:  139 min., Color

Studio/Distributor:  Lionsgate

Aspect ratio:  1.85:1

Featured audio: Dolby Atmos

Bonus features:  B+

Includes:  Blu-ray, Digital

Amazon link


Rated R for some violence, sexual material and language

Language: 5/10—close to double-digit occurrences of the f-word, plus some lesser swearwords, though they frankly don’t stand out with all the frenetic action and images

Sex:  510—Phallic symbols and dildos, some object humping in the background of one shot, and a comic scene with a sex dungeon that isn’t explicit except for the props; the most extreme scene is a dildo-shaped trophy that ends up inside a man who sits on it, while others insert one manually and any nudity is pixelated (though bizarre)

Violence: 5/10—Lots of fantasy fighting and plenty of blood, but the images are often comic or surreal (a man’s head blows up into confetti? another person gives themselves deliberate paper cuts? an animal is punted like a football?), which blunts the violence

Adult situations:  3/10—Some smoking and vaping

Takeaway:  The pace of this film is breakneck, and if that’s any indication of how the upcoming TV series Star Wars: Skeleton Crew is going to play out, you’d better yourselves; with Daniel Kwan directing, it could be a wild ride