*This review first ran during the Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2016
Usually, fart jokes are associated with bad raunchy comedies (Adam Sandler’s recent career comes to mind), or really uncreative family movies. But here comes “Swiss Army Man” – the Sundance title that’s generated the most vocal reaction amongst festival-goers for it’s ridiculous, and now infamous, farting dead body played by Daniel Radcliffe. This is only how the film begins, and let’s just say it toots even louder from there.
Paul Dano plays Hank, a man lost and alone on an island. Right when he’s about to give up on life, he discovers the aforementioned farting body and finds an unexpected answer to why his life is worth living. He discovers that many elements of this body can help him survive and find a way back home, and keeps himself sane (or perhaps insane) by talking to it.
As Hank develops a relationship with the dead body who calls himself Manny (one that starts out similar to Wilson in “Cast Away”), the intriguing absurdity keeps you engaged for the rest of the film. This is the type of film best seen with little information beyond the initial premise, as it is full of mystery boxes waiting to be uncovered. Thanks to the great use of locations and intricately beautiful production design by Jason Kisvarday, the world-building is fantastic and the wackiness becomes downright fun.
The writer/director duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as “The Daniels,” have a reputation for unique and highly entertaining work, and this feature represents a conglomerate of numerous ideas that, while may sound far-reaching and absurd, somehow all work. To get a small taste of what to expect from the mind of The Daniels’, check out their work here, notable gems include DJ Snake’s music video “Turn Down For What,” and the short film “Dog Boarding.”
On top of being a silly movie that doesn’t pretend to take itself seriously, “Swiss Army Man” sneaks in themes of societal behavior and what is considered weird vs what is normal. It’s rare to find a movie that is so unpredictable in an engaging way, and because “Swiss Army Man” begins with something so ridiculous and only goes deeper from there, it allows for limitless ideas on what is going to happen next and continues to be fun to watch. The reason the film may be polarizing to some is because of how silly it all is, but going in knowing what to expect is all you need to jump in and enjoy the show. There is little more to say without giving too much away – essentially, if you can accept absurdity and be along for the ride, this movie may just sneak up and treat you to a great time overall.
“Swiss Army Man” is rated R for language and sexual material. In theaters at the ArcLight Hollywood among others on Friday, 6/24.