"A Bizarre Story That’s Less Charming Than It Believes It Is"
What You Need To Know:
SWISS ARMY MAN goes beyond the quirky, hurtling into the bizarre realm with much zeal. The movie’s basic story is surprisingly imaginative. Daniel Radcliffe is quite funny as the clueless dead guy. However, the movie’s very strong Romantic worldview stresses seizing life even for foolish reasons, along with bursts of emotion, and suggests life is meaningless if you don’t feel love. This leaves viewers with nothing positive to hold. Also, long, vulgar discussions make SWISS ARMY MAN an excessive, unacceptable movie that most moviegoers probably will avoid.
(RoRoRo, HH, Ev, B, Ab, Ho, LLL, VV, N, SS, AA, M) Very strong Romantic worldview on seizing life even for foolish reasons, following bursts of emotion, and, if one feels no love, life is meaningless, plus some strong humanist elements including a strongly existentialist, hopeless ending and a reference to humans being evolved, with some moral components on love requiring honesty and loyalty, and thrown out Bible is found in the woods, but character later uses the book to illustrate lessons on fecal matter, and brief light homosexual allusions but nothing is acted out; at least 26 obscenities (including nine “f” words), 6 profanities, discussion of male and female anatomy, vomiting and recurring flatulent humor throughout; strong and light violence includes man attempts to hang himself, two men fall off a cliff, bear bites a man’s leg with blood splatter, and man underwater gets air from dead guy’s mouth; man is shown a swimsuit magazine and gets an erection that becomes a recurring plot point, long discussions on masturbation, and man impersonates a woman to teach another man how to talk to a lady who infatuates both of them, which leads to some weird romantic tension that isn’t really realized; rear male nudity, upper male nudity, scantily clad women in sports illustrated magazine; drinking and drunkenness; no smoking or drug use; and, lying and moral relativism.
SWISS ARMY MAN is a comedy-drama with imaginative fantasy elements about a marooned man, who makes friends with a dead corpse that speaks to him and that has a myriad of strange, but useful gifts.
The movie opens with Hank (Paul Dano) about to hang himself due to being marooned on an island all alone. Right as he’s about to kill himself, he sees a body (Daniel Radcliffe) wash to shore on the beach. Rushing to the body, he discovers the man who washed to shore is in fact dead. The only sign of possible life is the loud farts coming from the body. The farts are so intense that Hank uses the body as a human jet ski, propelled by the flatulence to leave the island. This is the beginning of the bizarre elements of Hanks journey to discover meaning and love, or the lack thereof.
Hank finally made it the mainland. Eager to find food, people or even cellular service for his quickly dying phone, Hank enters the woods and decides to bring the dead body with him since it was useful in getting him to the mainland. Hank needs water and struggles to catch the rain, but discovers that if he presses down on the dead body’s chest, fresh water spews from his mouth. When he continues to press down on the chest, the body starts to speak. He says his name is Manny, but has no memories of his previous life and has no idea about life in general.
Hank continues to carry Manny through the woods because Manny is dead and can’t move his limbs. All along the way, Hank teaches Manny about life, and especially love. He contrives a lie for Manny where the screensaver on his phone features a young woman may have been Manny’s girlfriend or wife, so Hank teaches Manny about love and relationships. In reality, the girl on the phone is a woman Hank loves, but never has the courage to say anything to her.
As they traverse through the woods, Manny becomes more and more useful to Hank, being able to propel large or small objects from his mouth, and other strange things. As the two obsess more and more over this woman, whose name is Sarah, the two become closer. It becomes less and less clear whether Manny is really talking, or if Hank is simply hallucinating and projecting his own personalities and woes onto Manny.
SWISS ARMY MAN goes beyond the quirky level, traversing into the bizarre realm with zeal. As a premise, the movie is surprisingly imaginative, and Daniel Radcliffe is quite funny as the clueless Manny. The movie additionally has an element of charm as it explores love and meaning. However, this potentially uplifting topic, which relates to Hank’s character, gets derailed. By the end of the movie, instead of serving the audience with meaning regarding Hank’s existential crisis, the filmmakers end the story by proving Hank isn’t delusional. Though intentional, the filmmakers missed a big opportunity by muddling the ending and leaving the audience purposefully confused.
SWISS ARMY MAN’s ambiguous and muddled storyline makes for a mixed worldview. On the one hand, love and friendship seem to bring Manny back to life a bit, and Hank learns that love requires honesty and loyalty. However, the movie also seems to celebrate a Romantic notion of love which isn’t grounded in virtue, but instead seems based on spurts of emotion, whether it be feelings for a random woman on a bus or bursts of emotion felt toward a dead body that may or may not be a reflection of one’s own identity. At the best, these emotions are weak. At the worst, they’re disturbing.
Where SWISS ARMY MAN really fails is in the foul language and the vulgar discussions between Hank and Manny. Long conversations about masturbation and male arousal make many of the movie’s jokes and gags frivolous and vulgar. It’s an odd tale, with ultimately little substance, and far too much reliance on trivial scatological jokes and sexual humor. Ultimately, SWISS ARMY MAN is an excessive, unacceptable movie that most media-wise moviegoers – and most moviegoers – probably will want to avoid.