Movie review: 'Swiss Army Man' takes a deep look at profundity of human emotion, farts
In the annals of wild premises, there's going to be a special place for "Swiss Army Man," a film that came out of Sundance with an unexpected buzz for something described succinctly as "the farting corpse movie."
It starts weird, stays weird and is shockingly emotionally resonate most of the time. It also has fart jokes if you like that. And if you like emotional resonance and fart jokes (like me!), well, you're the sweet spot that may fall in love with this movie (like me!).
Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a desert island. How he got there is left a bit fuzzy, but we meet him at the point where he's given up all hope and is about hang himself on the beach.
Moments before death, he spots the washed-up corpse of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). A closer investigation reveals Manny has an amazing talent for flatulence, even in death.
Through his haze of loneliness and starvation, Hank forms a friendship with Manny, and the two embark on an adventure to get home. Welcome to the weirdest buddy movie ever.
Writer-director team Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert - credited collectively as Daniels, as in "directed by Daniels" - has created one of the most wildly original things I've ever seen on film, and they don't care if you aren't on board.
And, sure, not everyone is going to be, what with all the farts and boners mixed in with a sweet story that examines loneliness and stunted emotions.
To answer the obvious question, yes, this is a speaking role for Radcliffe, and he's amazing in it. Manny comes into this world as a newborn - with no memories of the life he lived before - and begins conversing with Hank. Hank teaches him about the range of emotional experience, fears of death, loneliness and more. And the lessons are strangely beautiful.
Dano's performance is also a sight to behold, solidifying his spot as one of the great working actors who is rarely the same thing twice.
Even as weird as things were leading up to it, the conclusion is going to lose some people (I'm digesting it still). But the mix of humor and heartbreaking insight makes for a wonderful and obviously unique experience.
"Swiss Army Man" has the kind of sneaky emotional punch you often find in Pixar movies. And also a farting corpse.
"Swiss Army Man"
3 ½ stars out of 4