“Swiss Army Man” is a gas, but I realize that this creative comedy won’t pass everyone’s smell test.
No movie about a flatulent corpse is going to be to everyone’s taste.
Not even when that silent-but-dead fellow is portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe, who broke into movies playing Harry Potter but who never broke wind in any of the films.
Running this joke into the ground is part of what “Swiss Army Man” does, and there is certainly a juvenile repetition to it.
And embarrassed laughter.
Especially in the opening minutes, when a man stranded on an island finds the corpse, discovers its powerful flatulence and uses it to ride the dead man like a jet-ski to another part of the island.
But there’s more to this movie than, um, you know … butts.
There is also a sweet, sympathetic side to the movie that makes it one of the most thoughtful, imaginative and risky filmmaking turns this year.
Such daring deserves to be celebrated by those who don’t mind a challenge — those who enjoy seeing where something original leads them over the course of 95 minutes in the dark.
You may still wonder where the film led you when it’s done, and that’s OK. We don’t all need our hand held through a paint-by-numbers “Independence Day” sequel.
Co-writer-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as short-film makers “Daniels” and the makers of music videos (“Turn Down For What” is one of theirs), have embraced the ideas of indie moviemaking for their first feature film.
One of the biggest ideas is that of small, personal storytelling.
It doesn’t get much more personal than the story of Hank, sun-beaten, hungry and desperately alone on a jungle-beach area and about to hang himself until a dead man washes up on shore.
What happens next, beyond the flatulence, is open to interpretation, but we know that things are not what they seem.
No dead man has that much residual gas, but watching Hank use Manny (his name for the corpse) as a rainwater receptacle, a log breaker and a squirrel decapitator is as odd as it is amusing.
And Manny spends a good portion of the film talking, with Radcliffe hilarious as a drained-of-color fellow with misshapen facial expressions and no idea why he’s speaking.
Or why he’s ripping one after another.
Is this a dream? Hallucinations from hunger? We don’t know, but it adds to the kookiness and creepiness in a movie that lives by no rules.
Paul Dano has grown up from “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood” to his superb performance in last year’s inventive “Love & Mercy” and proven that he still loves a challenge.
As a man at the end of his rope, starving and now dragging a corpse around, Dano brings desperation and levity so effortlessly to Hank and to the film.
Imagine “Cast Away,” but if Wilson the volleyball were much larger and flatulent.
Hank’s confusion becomes your confusion at trying to figure out where this tale will end, and surprises are in store, as well as some creative stunts, props and visual tricks.
“Swiss Army Man” has many tools at its disposal. The filmmakers have used them to make a film that screams “cult-movie favorite.”
And there’s more to it than simple vapors.