Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
It's hard to fathom that a movie about a farting corpse with magical powers could not be amazing, but Swiss Army Man (opening today) shows that anything is possible.
Hank (Paul Dano) is alone and starving on a deserted island when we meet him, despite having access to bags of chips and soda bottles, which we see floating into the see with SOS messages scribbled all over them. As he's about to hang himself with a make-shift rope, he discovers a body (Daniel Radcliffe) washed up on the shore. Taking this as a miraculous sign, he becomes infatuated with the carcass, especially after it starts farting. One fart leads to another, and soon Hank realizes that these farts actually propel the body forward in the water. He uses this...gift?...to ride away from his island, but some heavy waves put him and the dead body back on another deserted island, albeit a much larger one.
Sound strange enough yet? This bizarre tale has only just begun. The cadaver begins to speak and Hank learns that his name is Manny. Manny is capable of pretty much everything: His hands can karate chop a tree in half, he spews fresh water from his mouth, and his erection acts as a compass. If you put things in his mouth, he can shoot them out like a weapon. Hank is flabbergasted by his new friend, and Manny tries to learn what it's like to be human again from Hank.
As you could imagine, the premise of Swiss Army Man is among the more outlandish you will ever see in any movie. It took me some time to wrap my head around some of the themes that the directors - Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who call themselves simply "Daniels" - were trying to tackle. This is essentially a buddy-movie about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. But is it being genuine, or is this some kind of tasteless jab at an audience not used to such a loose narrative?
The general direction this movie - and Radcliffe's penis - took us in, culminates in a disastrously awful ending that makes me believe that the Daniels failed at whatever they were trying to achieve. Manny's farts - I guess? - are meant to represent that we need to be more open around one another, and that we shouldn't reign in our God-given abilities. Or perhaps, the Daniels just wanted to get a kick out of critics discussing the thematic value of farts? Either way, this film leaves you with a creepy, oily feeling that you've somehow just been had. The more I thought about Swiss Army Man, the less I cared about what they were trying to do, or what intellectual nuggets of truth could have possibly been unearthed in the rubble.
Sure, people may go see Swiss Army Man for its stars, and just out of curiosity. And credit goes to Daniel Radcliffe, who continues to choose totally bizarre roles in his post-Harry Potter career. But if I could have it all to do over again and would have seen this lifeless mess about to wash up on my shore, I would have tightened the noose.
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Written & Directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (feature-length directorial and screen-writing debuts for both)
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