[Screen It]

"SWISS ARMY MAN"
(2016) (Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A suicidal man marooned on a deserted island is given a new lease on life when a corpse washes up on shore and the two become "friends."
PLOT:
Hank (PAUL DANO) is a suicidal man who has been marooned on a deserted island for some time. He is about to hang himself when he spots a male dead body (DANIEL RADCLIFFE) that has washed up on the beach. Hank still nearly hangs himself, but he is able to free himself from the noose and rush over to the dead body. He administers CPR, but it only seems to trigger a flatulence reflex. The corpse becomes so spectacularly flatulent that Hank is able to ride him like a jet ski off the island and out to sea.

He soon loses control and loses consciousness and wakes up on another beach on the edge of a thick wilderness. The dead body has washed up with him, and Hank sets off with the corpse into the woods to try and find civilization. He eventually comes to believe the corpse has amazing powers, reacquires the ability of speech, and believes his name to be Manny.

Together, Hank and Manny form an offbeat friendship and Manny comes to ask about all things related to Hank and the world -- chiefly love, sex, masturbation, and family ... specifically Hank's strained relationship with his father (RICHARD GROSS) in the years following the passing of his mom at a young age. Manny falls for a photo of a woman named Sarah (MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD) on Hank's dying cell phone, who turns out to be a young female he had stalked on a bus for many days before getting lost at sea. This gives him an erection that Hank believes is a compass back to civilization. Is it all in his mind, or is Manny really a reanimated being who is really helping him?

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The new dramedy "Swiss Army Man" attempts to show that there is a fine line between independent filmmaking auteurs ... and junior-high school cut-ups who still find flatulence and erections to be the funniest things ever. Dear readers, I give you co-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. Together, they refer to themselves as "The Daniels." That's an actual on-screen credit. But they might as well have listed themselves as Captain Quirk and Quirky McQuirkenstein.

No doubt. They've created a truly original film here. This is playing along the latest superhero, Pixar, Spielberg, and alien invasion extravaganzas at many cineplexes starting this weekend. It's a film about a suicidal man named Hank (Paul Dano) marooned on a deserted island who finds a washed-up corpse he names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), who has spectacular flatulence. Yes, big time farts, folks! How big? Hank is able to use Manny's gaseous emissions to ride the cadaver jet ski style out into the ocean where he eventually becomes stranded on another distant shore that sits on the edge of a great wilderness.

Hank then traipses off into the woods, Manny in tow, to find civilization. He's clearly deranged. Out of his flipping mind. He imbues Manny with additional magical powers, such as spewing fresh water like a fountain from his open mouth, large erections that Hank believes serve as a compass back to society, and being able to propel objects like un-popped popcorn kernels at bullet speed at various woodland animals, and so forth. Most magically of all, the corpse reacquires the ability to speak.

You either go with this film or you don't. I tried, folks. I tried really hard. And if the Daniels had kept all this in the mind of their protagonist, Hank, I think I might have given this a recommend to the art-house crowds. But the longer the film goes on, the more apparent it becomes that Manny is at least capable of some of these amazing feats. And in the film's closing sequence, which I won't spoil in this review, it is made completely clear that he can do at least one of the things I previously theorized was just some grand fantasy in Hank's twisted mind.

So, when the film flashed "The End" and ran its closing credits, I was left with just a big giant "Huh?" It's one of those indie movies where oddball things happen not because of some cool internal logic carefully set up. Oddball stuff happens just because ... it's an indie movie, and normal movie rules don't apply. Well, no. That's not good enough. There's whimsical and quirky. And then there's just plain dumb. Throughout the film, the Hank and Manny characters use the word "retarded" and then are quickly corrected. My guess is the Daniels' friends or colleagues used this word many times over the years whenever they would try and relate this concept to people.

I give them credit for selling some important money people on this kooky premise. And I give Dano and Radcliffe a heck of a lot of credit for their amazingly committed performances. I won't soon forget "Swiss Army Man." But I won't remember it fondly either. My score is 4 out of 10 (T. Durgin)




Reviewed June 30, 2016 / Posted July 1, 2016


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