The multiverse is clearly having a moment. After Marvel gave us several Spider-Men and Doctor Stranges in its last two movies, we now have director duo ‘the Daniels’ (Kwan and Scheinert, Swiss Army Man) exploring the same meta-territory of parallel worlds, but in their own ultra-idiosyncratic way.
The concept is a doozy, ripe with comedic juice and packed with visual thrills. The inhabitants of another universe have discovered a way to jump into the minds of their alternative selves and absorb their skills (similar to how Neo could download kung fu in The Matrix). They can achieve this by doing something very specifically unexpected, like suddenly eating a stick of lip salve or professing love for someone they barely know.
This kicks open the door for a manic, 139-minute episode of madcap action. It requires Michelle Yeoh – as losing-at-life launderette owner Evelyn Wang – to gamely toggle between several identities. These include a martial-arts action star not so different from her real-life self; a teppanyaki chef who discovers that her colleague is secretly controlled, Ratatouille-style, by a talking raccoon; and a woman with hotdogs for fingers.
The Daniels juggle silly gags and weird visuals like cackling Dadaists
The Daniels juggle silly gags and weird visuals like cackling Dadaists. But while the film over-indulges itself a little with an inflated runtime, it never totally comes off its hinges. The heavy concepts (nihilism and existentialism) are lightened by their deft tethering to one family’s relatable tribulations, including tax problems and intergenerational friction. Not to mention the sheer likeability of its core players: Ke Huy Quan (Data from The Goonies) as Evelyn’s sweet husband; Stephanie Hsu as her ironically named daughter Joy; and Yeoh herself, knocking every last scene out of the park. Thanks mainly to her, the Daniels’ movie deserves to be seen by, well, everyone everywhere.
Out now in the US and Australia. In UK cinemas May 13.