Everything Everywhere All at Once

Everything Everywhere All at Once ★★

I think it was Dan Harmon who developed and perfected the formula for making dense, expansive, overtly “wacky,” self-consciously high-concept comedies that are not-so-secretly concerned with more serious themes: the trick is that you smuggle something sentimental into something exceedingly ridiculous and/or intellectual, thereby locating the rich, gooey core at the centre of the hard candy of an ordinarily low-stakes, low-brow genre. When done well, as in, say, the Community episode “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” or (to a lesser extent) the Rick and Morty episode “Pickle Rick,” the juvenile premise effectively disguises the emotional throughline until the precise moment that the focus shifts and it becomes blindingly clear: a claymation Christmas special is actually about a teenager being abandoned by his mother; a cartoon action blockbuster is actually about alcoholism and avoiding therapy. Everything Everywhere is entirely built around this trick (not insignificantly, it’s produced by longtime Community directors the Russos), but it gets the ratio of high-concept lunacy to mawkish gutpunch entirely wrong — it’s like 20% lunacy to 80% mawkish when it should be the opposite. There’s a lot going on, obviously; it nevertheless attempts to make time to try for a tender moment every five minutes, which is simply a miscalculation. It wants to make something moving out of a rock with googly eyes, a black-hole bagel, a talking raccoon, hot dog fingers, etc, any one of which would have been a totally fine gambit, but taken together, it just feels like a lot of arbitrary, goofy stuff, none of which landed for me at all. By the time it reaches its teary-eyed, cathartic grand finale, any chance of surprise that a movie about the multiverse is actually about family or accepting yourself or love or whatever has been squandered a hundred times over. In what dimension is it remotely justifiable to have a 40-minute emotional climax? I get that you want to build to a hug but maybe give us more kung-fu first.

Calum liked this review