Swiss Army Man is the debut feature from music video and commercial directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who refer to themselves simply as ‘Daniels’, and are known for their highly creative approach to both those mediums, along with their great use of tongue-in-cheek humor and bizarre, mismatched story elements.
With Swiss Army Man they bring that creativity and originality to the table, aswell as the ambition to explore a story that’s balls-to-the-walls weird. But unfortunately all that is mismatched by the fact that the movie is frustratingly one-note and about 75 minutes too long.
Paul Dano stars as Hank, a suicidal castaway about to kill himself when the dead corpse of Daniel Radcliffe’s Manny washes up near shore and gives him a reason to live. Even though, Manny is dead, apparently his ability to fart isn’t, which even allows him to even break wind so gloriously that he becomes a human jet ski. Well, turns out Manny can talk too, but unfortunately for some reason, he doesn’t know much about anything. So he and Hank begin to talk, while also trying to find a way off the island, they begin to talk about the meaning of life annnd…that’s precisely where I lost interest.
Making the jump from commercials and music videos to feature filmmaking is never easy, and though the Daniels do an admirable job of directing the film, the script they’ve written is so bare bones, with contrived quirkiness and dialogue that is neither funny, nor the slightest bit engaging. Could this film have worked better as a 15 minute short? Absolutely. But it simply doesn’t have enough to work as a cohesive 90 minute picture.
It feels like this movie is really striving for that Spike Jonze/ Michel Gondry level of whimsy that just isn’t there. And it doesn’t help that Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse feels alot like a lazy exposition plot-device than an actual character, which this movie clearly wanted it to be. Which is not to say that Radcliffe isn’t utterly convincing as a talking, farting half-dead corpse, he absolutely is, and Paul Dano is pretty good too. Sadly, the script just isn’t there. And the script’s weakness is perhaps best reflected by the final act when it turns to sentimentality as it’s last resort to make you care. It failed to stir any emotion in my body.
So in the end, you have something that could have been a kooky music video, a highly off-beat anti-suicide infomercial or a 15 minute short. But what it actually is, is a hopelessly dragged out 90 minute movie, whose observations on life are about as intellectual as those of a 16 year old stoner.