Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore. The two become fast friends, and ultimately go on an epic adventure that will bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams.
Okay, so… that happened. Paul Dano gets stuck on a deserted island, befriends Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse and uses it as a multi-purpose tool - a Swiss army knife if you will, and then realizes his magical properties while learning thing or two about farts. A ridiculous premise that mostly relies on weirdness and shock-factor to tell its ridiculous story which, unfortunately, doesn’t go deeper than that trench the character Hank buries the semi-character Manny whilst trying to kill a squirrel, or was it conjuring up a bonfire? Nevertheless, Swiss Army Man, when stripped from all that silly within, is not that deep as it thinks it is.
Or is it?
As Hank (Paul Dano) maroons/finds himself somehow/strands on an island, just before saying bye-bye to life by hanging himself, miraculously spots a dead man’s body which belongs to none other than Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). From here thereon, the movie starts spoon-feeding us slap-stick humor that is intriguing, but just not that funny. And to add insult to injury: farts start getting the comedic treatment for a majority of several scenes which frankly, I cannot see the point of doing so. And so we continue.
Manny as it turns out, wields some (borderline) magical properties that help Hank survive in his endeavors of equal time boredom and loneliness. So we come to learn, Manny serves well as a human-sized lighter device (shooting fire out of his arse), a harpooning machine (spitting harpoon projectiles at unsuspecting fish in a pond) and a hunting rifle (shooting off the head of a seemingly neutral squirrel). Directors Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan sure went out of their way to dig the craziest, most creative ideas out of their craniums and put them on paper for potential adaptation down the road later.
Some of them translated well, while other – not so much.
And one would think that a silly premise like the aforementioned farts and whistles would also yield silly over-the-top exaggerated acting to no avail; this is not the case, since Swiss Army Man features some of the best acting seen in a film (whether or not it’s method acting, I couldn’t tell); Paul Dano as the introvert weirdo does a great job of coming off as an introvert weirdo; Daniel Radcliffe has also gone to great lengths to distance himself from the Potter universe ad one can tell: his portrayal of a dead man has never felt so alive (had to, sorry).
Ultimately, Swiss Army Man boils down to a bizarre and unique digital picture to a point of being bizarre for its own sake. It’s also distinctively original, which is not always a good thing per se.