Swiss Army Man

This fart-filled flick will move you in more ways than one.
Sarah Ward
July 14, 2016


In Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe plays a dead guy with a rather particular set of skills. Manny is prone to excessive bouts of flatulence, and uses his explosive gift to assist his only friend. After he washes up on a deserted island, he's just what Paul Dano's stranded and suicidal Hank needs to help him find his way back to civilisation. Manny also comes in handy in a host of other ways: his erections act as a compass, he spits fresh water out of his mouth, and he simply gives Hank some much-needed company.

You may have already heard about the so-called farting corpse movie, particularly after it reportedly prompted mass walk-outs at this year's Sundance Film Festival (where it also won the Best Directing award). In truth, there's a lot more to Swiss Army Man than the emphasis on bodily functions would suggest. The feature filmmaking debut of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as DANIELS), consider it the sweetest film you're likely to see about a deceased dude who looks like Harry Potter letting rip.

Indeed, every burst of air expelled from Manny's buttocks provides a reminder of why everyone is so obsessed with the noisy but amusing phenomena. Put simply, to fart is to be human. Remembering what it is to be alive is just what Hank needs after much too long spent in isolation — and if it takes being forced to explain the ins and outs of love, family, masturbation and more to a cadaver whose chatter could simply be a figment of his imagination, then so be it. Sure, it's a rather absurd way for a film to address existential concerns, but hey, it works.

As silly as it all appears, there's a careful balancing act at the heart of Swiss Army Man as it charts the unlikely duo's time together, including the stories Hank tells Manny about the girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) he had a crush on before his current predicament changed his life forever. Kwan and Scheinert might seem to spend a little too much time revelling in scatological humour, but after inspiring laughs, they also spin a story that contemplates plenty of hard truths. Actually, it's not just the toilet gags that may throw viewers off, but also the film's dream-like look and feel. Yet it's also why the end product isn't only insightful, but also so utterly disarming.

It takes confidence to go from boy wizard-level fame to zipping around the ocean like a human jet ski. Radcliffe proves not just up to the challenge, but adept at bringing his dead character to life. While some sequences follow in the footsteps of '80s comedy Weekend at Bernie's, Manny is more than a prop — he's the film's not-quite-beating heart. Across from Radcliffe, Dano does what he does best, although he's much more effective when he has his co-star to bounce off of. With that in mind, you can add tender buddy comedy to Swiss Army Man's list of qualities. In short, this fart-filled flick will move you in more ways than one.


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