A little flatulence can go a long way.
For some reason he can’t explain, Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded, sad and pretty damn alone in this one little island. However, right before he’s about to kill himself due to loneliness-overkill, a random body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore. Though this shouldn’t mean much to Hank, originally, nor should it get in his way of ending his life, for some reason, it can’t stop farting. Why? Well, Hank doesn’t really know. But what he does know is that the flatulence is able to take him from point-A-to-point-B and, hopefully, itch him closer and closer to home and getting some help. Eventually though, time starts to pass with Hank and, for other reasons unexplained, the body starts to do and say certain things that no other lifeless body should ever do or say, ever. So obviously, Hank is perplexed, but rather than figuring out all of the scientific reasons why this could have happened, he then decides to throw all caution to the wind, except it for what it is, move on, try to find shelter, and in the meantime, have a little fun. After all, he’s got a lifeless body with him that is capable of all sorts of weird superpowers, so why not try and take advantage, right?
Swiss Army Man, as I’m pretty sure most have either heard, or expected after reading that plot-synopsis, is a pretty strange bird of a flick. It’s the kind of fantasy film that I feel as if a really young Kevin Smith would have written and cobbled-up together, but instead of there being a plethora of weed, dick and sex jokes, there’s only farting. A whole lot of it, too. But you know what? It’s actually funny and kind of works.
Writers/directors Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan (“Daniels”, as they like to call themselves), clearly have a lot of wacky and wild ideas in their heads and don’t know what to do with them, or where to store them all. So, it only makes sense that in a movie like Swiss Army Man, where a dead body literally starts speaking, farting, barfing-up water, and feeling emotions, they throw everything that they’ve got at the wall, see what sticks, and when they’re not pleased fully, they decide to throw more at the wall, and rinse, recycle, repeat. For most people, this will be tirelessly annoying and downright amateurish of them, but somehow, they make it all work.
Swiss Army Man isn’t the kind of movie that needs to be taken seriously right off the bat and it’s what keeps itself interesting and fun for the most part. It deals with dark comedy in a way that’s so strange, I’m not sure how it would be seen as “comedy” elsewhere; the Daniels’ clearly have a weird sense of humor, but they use it well enough here to where it doesn’t get in the way of the story, or making it feel as if they’re getting in the way.
However, at the same time, they kind of do.
The Daniels’ work best when it seems like they’re throwing everything at us, including and actually, most especially, the kitchen sink. They take what could have been a really standard survivalist story, with instead of Wilson the Volleyball, there’s a dead corpse, therefore giving it an angle, and exploring all sorts of other weird ideas and facts about life. The Daniels’ may have set out to make a silly comedy, but they somehow come-off as being more enlightening and sweet when all is said and done.
They have to do a lot here to keep this story interesting and their idea fresh, so in that sense, they succeed. It’s only when the movie, as well as their own selves, realize that all of the silly shenanigans and fun from before, have to be put back to the side, for a message about life, love and living to your fullest potential – although, I’m not too sure about that last one, as I feel like the movie itself was kind of making that up, too. Once again, there’s no problem with a comedy wanting to get serious and spout out some serious life-lessons in the process to learn and abide by, but there’s a certain movie you do that in and I don’t believe that Swiss Army Man, the farting-corpse movie, is that one movie.
If anything, it’s that movie’s hated and alienated step-cousin that people feel obligated to invite for family functions, but don’t really bother with or talk to much.
Poor Swiss Army Man – now I actually want to give it a hug.
As for Dano and Radcliffe, since they basically are the two main stars of the flick, do well together. Dano is still doing that off-put and frazzled nerd, whereas Radcliffe, playing incredibly against-type, gets a lot to do, without ever showing us. Sure, he moves his lips a whole lot, but because he’s playing a corpse, Radcliffe can’t move or emote a whole lot; most of the movie is spent with him in something of a mix between a grin and frown. Either way, Radcliffe works perfectly in this role, making us laugh when we least expect it, and also nailing down this movie’s odd tone, whenever it seems like it needs him to. If anything, the movie makes me wonder where the Daniels’ careers will go after this and who would dare try out whatever they’ve got cooking next.
Perhaps a peeing-skeleton movie? Or, a movie where nobody pees, poops, farts, throws up, and just acts like normal, typical human beings in a world as sensible as the one we leave in?
Meh. Probably not. That’s boring.
Consensus: Hardly ever boring, Swiss Army Man works better than it should in an odd, but rather funny kind of way, but also loses itself when it tries to be important and manipulatively tug at the heartstrings.
7 / 10
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