One of the quirkiest films, with surely the most outrageous premise, to come along --- ever, "Swiss Army Man" is the feature film debut of "Daniels", Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan. It also won the prize for directing at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
The film opens with poor Hank (Paul Dano) trying to hang himself. He's stranded on a desert island and has decided to end it all. A washed-up corpse, whom he names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) changes his mind, and the two loners form a bond that proves indelible.
"Swiss Army Man" will hold certain appeal for moviegoers of a certain age and mindset. It is not a film for everyone. At our screening, the Daniels were present and explained that their ideas were created to make people think about life, and if their movie makes you feel uncomfortable, one should consider why that is.
A good deal of the humor revolves around flatulence and other bodily functions. It didn't really make me uncomfortable, I just didn't find it all that funny. Parts of "Swiss Army Man" are extremely entertaining, very amusing and highly imaginative.
I enjoyed Hank and Manny's journey. They eventually make it to the mainland thanks to Manny's prolific gas propulsion, which creates sort of a jet ski ride for Hank. Their re-creation of Hank's obsession with a female bus rider, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), from his former life, is sweet --- and totally bizarre. But "Swiss Army Man" takes an unexpected --- and not in a good way --- turn when Hank eventually confronts this woman.
Fantastical, offbeat and far-out are not necessarily a good or bad thing. Daniels have proven that they can think outside the box --- and that's a great thing. But once "Swiss Army Man" butts up against reality, it hits a wall.
I was enjoying its zaniness, albeit not loving some of the bathroom humor, but even that did not turn me off completely. The ending, however, is so nonsensical that it nearly damages my overall opinion of the film.
Dano and Radcliffe are amazing. Almost nothing could beat Dano's performance as Brian Wilson in last summer's "Love and Mercy", but his portrayal of Hank comes close. He possesses exactly the right countenance to pull off Hank's severe loneliness, then unbridled happiness at finding a true friend in Manny.
For Radcliffe this had to be the opportunity of his career to get the "Harry Potter" monkey off his back. He's absolutely brilliant. Playing a corpse correctly has to be terribly difficult --- and Radcliffe is believably dead. Every loll of his head and twist of his body is perfectly executed --- and he is wonderfully funny.
Daniels' dialogue is whip-smart and impactful. Had they not chosen such a maddening and disappointing conclusion, I would have liked "Swiss Army Man" that much more. But, it is their film after all, and they obviously have their reasons. For those adventurous moviegoers out there, it's a must see.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
"Swiss Army Man" is a wholly original new film written and directed by the duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. They go by the single name of "Daniels", as in "directed by Daniels". Their movie won an award at Sundance for directing, and while it is very well constructed and photographed, that doesn't necessarily make it 100% entertaining.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead man, and Paul Dano as a man who wishes he were dead, this film is wide open to interpretation. We first meet Hank (Dano) on a deserted island, looking haggard, sporting a scruffy beard, and unsuccessfully trying to hang himself. When he spots a dead body that washed up on the sand, his abject loneliness is replaced by curiosity, and more importantly, the possibility that he will no longer be alone.
Said dead man is Manny (Radcliffe) --- so named by Hank --- who gradually returns to the land of the living via Hank's imagination. We experience this because of Manny's ever-improving speech, his over-the-top flatulence, and his absurd penile erections. Is Hank projecting his feelings of inadequacy onto Manny, or is he simply delirious?
"Swiss Army Man" is based on Hank and Manny's relationship. Despite the good acting by both young stars --- with extra kudos to Radcliffe who exhibits all the traits of a zombie-like corpse --- I didn't find it all that enthralling because I wasn't totally invested in either of the characters.
The directors do employ some effective special effects, including Hank riding Manny like a jet ski, and Manny spurting water out of his mouth which Hank proceeds to drink as a lifesaving source. Is the film unconventional? No doubt. Is it fun? At times. But all of this becomes a bit tedious, and I've decided that "Swiss Army Man" is not a picture that I can heartily recommend.
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD