Friday, October 14, 2016

Useless Tool

Swiss Army Man is among the most peculiar movies I've ever seen. To some extent, it's Cast Away with a dead body substituting for Wilson the volleyball. But if you've heard of it, it was probably as "the farting corpse movie."

Hank is marooned on a desert island and in the process of trying to kill himself when a dead body washes ashore. Desperate for any companionship, Hank soon imagines the corpse is able to talk. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. His new friend, Manny, is the Swiss Army Man of the title, useful for all sorts of tasks that might just help Hank survive the ordeal.

There are plenty of movies that have the same commitment to strangeness as this one. Being John Malkovich is a classic; more recently, I've written about The Lobster. Swiss Army Man is as deeply weird as those, yet lacks the thoughtful message that makes the weirdness worthwhile.

The filmmakers did put gags along the way, but ultimately even those aren't enough. Without question, watching a man ride a flatulence-powered corpse like a jet ski is one of the more insane visuals ever committed to film. But the movie wants to have its cake and eat it too, making tons of jokes about farting and masturbation while at the same time pretending to be profound. Its ending doesn't come anywhere near profound. It's among the longer 95 minutes you'll ever see, and the journey isn't worth it.

The two stars do give go-for-broke performances. Paul Dano is a suitably mopey Hank, and Daniel Radcliffe wrings out a few extra laughs as Manny apart from the sight gags. But they're still essentially fighting to balloon an idea for a 10-minute short film to almost 10 times that length. I just wasn't having it.

Tantalizing premise, lackluster execution. I give Swiss Army Man a D-. Best to avoid this one.

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