Farts are hilarious. I don’t care how high brow you are, if you can’t laugh at a well-placed fart joke, we can’t be friends. In Swiss Army Man, farts are hilarious, but they’re much more. Farts are an allegory for the limits we place on ourselves in order to feel like we fit into society. Farts are things that make us happy, but we feel are just too weird for everyone else; they are the skeletons in our closets, our fetishes, and our fandoms. Through simple passes of gas, Swiss Army Man has a lot more to say about us as humans than most movies out there, and it’s truly one of the weirdest and most heartfelt films I’ve seen in a long time.
Fade in on Paul Dano’s character Hank with a noose around his neck. This is the first image we see, as he prepares to end it all after being the lone survivor of a supposed shipwreck. If it weren’t for the washed-up dead body of Daniel Radcliffe on the beach, it would also be the last image we see. But of course, our film doesn’t end there, and Hank takes his head out of the noose and goes on an adventure with a dead Harry Potter. This adventure includes uncontrolled flatulence and using Radcliffe’s body like a jetski to get to safety. As the story progresses, the body starts to come back to some semblance of life and Hank realizes that the body, whom he names Manny, has some special skills that can help him get back home, like an erection that points the way they need to go and some major kung-fu hand chops that can cut down trees.
The journey isn’t just a hike through the woods, though. As Manny starts to become more sentient, he has a lot of questions about life and what it is. What is life? What is love? What is masturbation? All of these questions Hank tries to answer as best he can, but it’s obvious that the idea of life and all the things about life are being skewed by a teacher that has had a tough go of it. Hank is uncomfortable in his own skin, even talking to a dead body that is literally leading him through the forest by its dick. His hang-ups on sex, farting in public, and expressing his emotions are roadblocks they both have to overcome in order to get home, as Manny’s learning depend on Hank’s ability to finally open up to someone, even if it may just be in his head.
Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are fantastic as the two leads, both of which have very physically and emotionally demanding roles. Their chemistry together is fantastic and carries this oddball premise into believability. Specifically, Daniel Radcliffe puts together his best post-Harry Potter performance as Manny, which is the linchpin of the film; without such a believable performance, this film wouldn’t gain any traction.
Swiss Army Man is a movie that asks you to take the journey with it. There’s no explanation as to why Manny can fart with enough force to be a means of conveyance, or why he can spit up a steady stream of drinkable water; it’s part of the fantasy that isn’t all slapstick. In fact, comedy takes a backseat to the true meaning of the film by the time you accept the odd parameters of this multi-tool human. It’s about a troubled man that relearns what he thinks about life through a stand-in. This stand-in just happens to fart a lot.
RATING: 8.5 out of 10