Swiss Army Man Movie Review

Have you ever wondered what the many uses of a dead body can bring? I hope not.  While the question may sound very demented, I assure you that is not the purpose. The surprisingly sweet, oddly comedic and overall bizarre film is, I think, partly about one man’s struggle to overcome depression through fart jokes. So jump on the back of the nearest corpse and take a wild ride through the surreal journey of SWISS ARMY MAN.

Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man

Hopeless and lost in the wilderness, Hank (Paul Dano) finds a dead body named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe).  Manny can do all the usual things that dead bodies can do – provide an unlimited amount of drinking water, launch things from his mouth if loaded and triggered properly, point in a compass like direction using a certain private body part, speak, and fart quite regularly (that part is actually a true result from a decaying body). Unfortunately, Manny still can’t move his body unless he is properly handled. Thus the title, SWISS ARMY MAN.

Previously working on music videos, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert directed and wrote the unusual film together.  Their wildly imaginative approach to their original story should book the first-time feature film duo plenty of work in the future.  As much as their heartfelt comedy stands out because of the delightful looniness, SWISS ARMY MAN doesn’t achieve its purpose without the committed playful performances from the two lead actors.

Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man

I’ve been a fan of Paul Dano since his standout work in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.  Among an already talented group of actors and interesting characters in the 2006 indie film, Dano manages to create a sympathetic teenager (no small feat in Hollywood) whose thoughts are visible without the use of verbal communication.  Dano has since proved to be one of today’s top young actors with a wide range of excellent work under his belt.  Dano provides another amazing performance of craziness with sympathetic sincerity through Hank.  His wide-eye amazement and energy is the perfect fit to all the insanity that he has created.  Daniel Radcliffe has managed to separate from his Harry Potter identity quite well with challenging roles in smaller films. As the motionless, talking dead bestie, Radcliffe is alive with humor and charm. The two of them qualify for this year’s most unique buddy team, igniting impressively massive chemistry…along with their farts.

Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man

Radcliffe spends his time being dragged, carried and puppeteered by Dano.  Their growing friendship is literally magical as they live exist in the wilderness. Reenacting movies and life’s memories with the help from the JURASSIC PARK theme song make for some of the film’s most elaborately sweet and silly scenes.

Hank is clearly a tortured soul who wants to be good, kind and brave.  But mostly he wants to be accepted and loved. We learn these things through his conversations with Manny, who has a child-like understanding to life’s normalcies and etiquettes. Manny is able to cut through some of life’s subtle absurdities by ironically being a talking absurdity.

While I appreciate and enjoy the brand of originality SWISS ARMY MAN provides, I didn’t like it as well as I was hoping.  The overall theme of juvenile discovery and Hank learning to accept himself becomes redundant.  Humor and wonderment are bountiful but only sometimes do I feel truly connected to the characters and the deeper sentiment that doesn’t fully grasp its own purpose.  SWISS ARMY MAN may not always work and is definitely not for everyone, but for those looking for something off the beaten path, this might be the biggest surprise of the year.


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