Review: Swiss Army Man, or “Undead Harry Potter farts a lot; Paul Dano talks to him about it”

Are you sitting around wondering what to do with yourself? Have some time to kill but are tired of the same old thing at the box office? The answer you’re looking for is “Swiss Army Man”. Co-directors and writers Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan, both presented here simply as “Daniels”, have created something truly unique. This is by far the most original film I have seen in ages. It’s quirky nature may not be for everyone, but I suggest checking out if only for the fact that you’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

Okay, so, in short, this movie is about a suicidal guy teaching a dead man that life is beautiful. I know, but trust me, it gets weirder. The film opens with Paul Dano’s character Hank about to hang himself as he’s stranded on a small island. Right before he does so he spots Daniel Radcliffe’s, or Manny as Hank later dubs him, dead body washed up on shore. He investigates the corpse and finds it to be full of flatulence. From there Hank rides Manny away from the island like a jet-ski, powered solely by Manny’s farts. Now, if at this point you’re asking why I would recommend such a film, I would say to you that this film is almost indescribable. It doesn’t necessarily sound “fresh” on paper. However what Daniels achieved in this film is the weirdest, and oddly most heartfelt, combination of what could be considered trash, or low brow art, and elevating it, or mixing it with high class art.

Hank and Manny reach the mainland and try to reach society throughout the rest of the film. The hook is when Hank begins to talk to Manny a la Tom Hanks and Wilson in “Castaway”, and Manny begins to talk back. From there Hank begins to teach Manny, who actually is dead-yet also alive.. sort of, about life, people, and how the world works. Manny has no memories of his past life and he’s almost alien like in his understanding of how things work. He constantly asks questions and points out the illogical tendencies of human social acts, like how if you want to talk to a girl, you should just talk to her. Hank soon finds that Manny may be dead but his body has even more odd abilities as the story unfolds. I won’t go further into all of the details as I find it best to seek out the story here for yourselves mostly because to elaborate further would ruin the surprise.

This film is a standout for me because all of the weird pieces come together with a unique voice that hasn’t been heard until now. The writing is solid, the cinematography nicely shot, and the acting by both Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano is superb. This film has heart, saddness, truth, and a pretty cool soundtrack that matches the film’s wild changes in tone and sensation. It also has erection jokes, good use of body humor, and a whimsical spirit that defies the mainstream love of grit and darkness. The film rejects the stifled society norms of what is acceptable and what kinds of story that can be told. This film is deeper than it has any right to be, and that’s amazing in itself. Not to mention the elaborate practical effects that showcase the Daniels’ skill for original and entertaining sequences onscreen.

Personally I adored this film, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it unapologetically is what it is, and it’s okay with that. Be warned though, just because Daniel Radcliffe is in this doesn’t mean it’s for all ages. I doubt children would be okay with seeing a dead, farting, Harry Potter being dragged through the dirt by Paul Dano.

Final Score: 4.5/5

Check out this interview with Daniels