Swiss Army Man
Time Out says
Daniel Radcliffe farts his way to an instant all-time stink bomb as a talking corpse with gas.
Sometimes movies feel like fever dreams, fueled by sexy bodies in motion, a pounding electro soundtrack or cinematography that swirls in a revel. This one’s fueled by farts. A preschool-puerile survival movie about a desert-island-stranded beardo and his new best friend—a flatulent, washed-ashore corpse—Swiss Army Man is shocking only for the caliber of its cast (never less than fully committed), but it leaves us with alarming questions about their taste in scripts.
Scraggly, suicidal Hank (Paul Dano) is all noosed up and ready to go on his speck of a remote island when, along the beach, he sees a limp body buffeted by the waves (Daniel Radcliffe, taking on a role that gets progressively weirder). Spirits soaring, Hank races down to his only companion, whose pallid body discharges its final fumes. But these sounds go on and on, noisily, and suddenly, both men are on the water in a bizarre human–Jet Ski combination propelled by a steady stream of ass gas.
You simply won’t believe what you’re seeing—Harry Potter’s bare bottom being the least of it. If co–writer-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (viral-video sensations credited as Daniels) had built the ensuing movie out of such desperate dream sequences interposed with Hank’s crushing reality, Swiss Army Man might have worked as an unhinged Cast Away for millennials. But we’re already way off the deep end: The ocean escape is real, landing them on a woodsy shoreline, and Manny, as Radcliffe’s rigor-mortis-bent companion calls himself in a croak, becomes a full-fledged character: a magical source of drinking water that vomits out of his mouth.
Stupefying in all respects, the film doubles down on Hank’s obsession with a young woman he once saw on the bus (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the two buddies begin ritualistically re-creating that moment with branches and garbage found in the forest—a Michel Gondry–esque explosion of DIY production design. Here’s where the film really plummets in ambition: All of this bizarritude comes in service of the most banal, if-only-I’d-talked to her pining. You can feel the sag in your audience (whoever elects to stay). Meanwhile, Manny’s crotch is stirred, his tumescent boner serving as a compass to civilization—I’m not making this up—and still the farts continue, lighting fires and propelling the duo into the air out of harm’s way.
Back on planet Earth, we’re still talking about a ridiculously infantile film, one that flatters itself by intimating a deeper comment about suppressed masculinity and romantic passivity. Nope. And we do a disservice to compare Swiss Army Man to the work of, say, the Farrelly brothers, filmmakers who couple scatological humor with stealth sweetness. Only the film’s all-voice score, manically hummed by Manchester Orchestra members Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, captures the inner workings of a cracked mind. The rest of the movie is breaking wind.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
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Rothkopf seems to have only watched half of the movie. Swiss Army Man is not about suppressed masculinity or romantic passivity. Swiss Army Man is a film about a lonely man who, while trying to survive, decides whether or not the life he left was worth living. The ironic twist is that it's a (yes, farting) corpse that convinces him that, yeah, it is. This movie is about letting go of shame and asking why we are ashamed, anyway. This movie is about the softer masculinity you see in a caring and raw relationship between two men. This movie is about expectations and living life passively. Sure, in the first half this movie does seem like the typical "finding my way back to the girl who I should have talked to" arc. But, Hank finds no satisfaction in finding the girl. This movie is a love story, but it just so happens to be between the male leads, not between the guy and the girl who got away.
This movie has a weird sort of tenderness to it that only affects you if you're willing to be okay with the fact that this movie essentially opens with a guy riding a farting corpse like a jet-ski. The score really fits the weirdness of the film and blends right into what's happening on-screen. It takes a leap of faith and a good deal of suspension of disbelief, but this movie really does have heart to it.