“Swiss Army Man,” a new film starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, will exceed your expectations. No matter how odd you think a movie about a lovesick, stranded man and his dead friend will be, “Swiss Army Man” is odder. It’s “Hope and Crosby On the Road to Self Awareness,” and it is weirder than you imagine it will be, but also wonderful and rather sweet in its own strange way.
The surreal saga begins with Hank (Dano) marooned on a Pacific island. On the verge of suicide, he has lost hope until he sees a man wash up on shore. “Don’t be dead,” he says, rushing to examine the body. It’s Manny (Radcliffe), and he is dead… or, perhaps more rightly, deadish. Manny’s body may be lifeless but it’s not useless. His flatulence lights fires, his erections sub in for a compass, he becomes a gun, a fountain and even a showerhead. “You’re a miracle,” says Hank, “or I’m just hallucinating from eating starfish.” As they journey toward civilisation the two men dig deep finding reasons to keep one another reasons to stay alive.
This story of a hopeless man and his dead buddy is a tale of friendship and what it means to be alive, really and truly alive. Unconventional and even occasionally off-putting, the easy thing would be to describe it as “Cast Away” meets “Weekend at Bernie’s” but that doesn’t grab the poetic essence of what the film is trying to achieve. Using a premise Monty Python might have rejected as too silly, “Swiss Army Man” uses the relationship between its characters to shed light on everything from stifled machismo and loyalty to unrequited love and the need for compassion. It’s a big order for a film that so whole-heartedly embraces its own eccentricity and it won’t be for everyone but adventurous viewers may enjoy the sheer audacity of it.
As for Daniel Radcliffe fans, if you can accept the idea of Harry Potter’s body being used as a jet ski, propelled through the water by the power of his own flatulence, then this movie will be for you. If not, perhaps stick to “Prisoner of Azkaban.”