It would be safe to say that two of the three of the Harry Potter trio are doing well for themselves now. Emma Watson has made a name for herself as an outspoken feminist, while also snagging a big role as Belle in the live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” out next year. While Daniel Radcliffe is doing…this. Yes, while Watson is traversing in extravagant ball gowns singing Disney tunes, Radcliffe farts. “Swiss Army Man” made quite a splash at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year after audiences were split on Radcliffe’s new film in which he plays a corpse with a terrible flatulence problem. Many people described the film as “immature” and “disgusting,” while many others sought to look past the humor and focus on the heart that the film has. Of course, me having the maturity of a 12 year old, I went into “Swiss Army Man” fully ready for a world of fart jokes.
And yet, once you get past that initial shock of it, “Swiss Army Man” has a LOT of heart.
Hank (Paul Dano) is a depressed young man stranded on a desert island after a shipwreck, fully ready to kill himself when in his view is a body washed up on shore, Manny (Radlciffe). After first ignoring it, Hank is perplexed by Manny’s incredible flatulence, which propels them off the island like a jet ski to civilization. Are you still following me? I hope so. After beaching, and Manny springing to life, Manny and Hank must go on an adventure for Hank to reunite with the girl that he loves (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), all the while discovering Manny’s many different talents along the way.
Please believe me in saying that the film has a lot of heart beyond the body humor that comes with Manny. Dano and Radcliffe are fantastic and have wonderful chemistry together in their own weird way. There’s a certain sadness with both of their characters in their newfound desperation for life and the means in which they will attempt to obtain it. Within that lies a sweetness between the two that could sometimes be construed as homoerotic, but is played down a few times. I wish Winstead was used in the film more, as she exists as one of my favorite working actresses today and should be given more time to show that beyond the typical “love story” character.
But make no mistake, “Swiss Army Man” is funny, if you like this type of humor. It’s absurdist and quite immature, but the film’s ability to play it completely straight makes it all the more effective when it does happen. The usages of Manny range from the obvious to the completely insane and are plays really well.
The directors of the film, Daniels (names of co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), inject an almost Wes Anderson-like vibe to the film, mixed with the neutral vibe of “The Hunger Games,” forming a strange, almost surreal feel to the film. Leaving the audience wondering the entire if the concept of Manny and his functions are images in Hank’s head as he traverses his way to freedom. This uncertainty of reality is a nice touch to the film’s already absurdist tone, which helps deepens the film’s heart as Manny and Hank’s relationship grows.
“Swiss Army Man” is something to behold. It’s not perfect, but it’s an incredibly sweet, engaging film about a farting corpse that uses his erection as a compass to drive him home. For a film so crude and strange sounding, the film is a touching, engaging, hilarious and sometimes even emotionally charged journey that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s not for everyone, and any criticism leveled against it definitely could be a subjective, valid one, but for someone with a weak heart and a young sense of humor, “Swiss Army Man” hit me square in the chest.
Directed by: Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
Starring: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Runtime: 95 minutes
Rating: R for language and sexual material.
An A24 release, Tadmor and Astrakan Films AB present, a Cold Iron Pictures/Blackbird Pictures production, in association with Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, a film by Daniels, “Swiss Army Man”