** ½ out of four
Swiss Army Man is like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial except instead of an intergalactic alien we have a flatulent corpse. Or it's like the Farrelly brothers tried to make an art film. Like the stupid killer tire movie from 2010, Rubber, this movie strains to be so strange that it comes up uneven, but at least Swiss Army Man has something on its mind.
This bit of magical realism opens with Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on a deserted island. Just when he is about to end it all and hang himself, a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore. But like Billy Crystal's Miracle Max says in The Princess Bride, this dead guy is “only mostly dead”. First off, the corpse, named Manny, is full of an incredible amount of gas, so much so that his farts propel him through the ocean, so Hank rides him like a motorboat to the mainland. You read that right. The problem now is that they are lost in the wilderness. Manny begins to re-animate – he talks and even gets erections – which Hank uses as a compass. Manny begins to ask many questions and soon becomes obsessed with the girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) pictured on Hank's iPhone.
Swiss Army Man is written and directed by music video directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively and pretentiously known as DANIELS) and I am almost convinced these guys are actually seventh graders because of the material here – they love fart jokes and are discovering girls and the frustrations that come with that. The movie ruminates on loneliness, being loved, and even the art of stalking, yet the crassness involved defuses some of the emotional connection to the story. As off-kilter as the movie is, it doesn't go through with certain ideas and scenarios it brings up. So, it doesn't go all the way and is not quite as daring as it could be. Still, Swiss Army Man has stayed with me since I saw it and occasionally gives me the giggles.