The music video directing team of Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan make their move into features with Swiss Army Man. The film is a hipster hybrid of cinematic influences—equal parts Werner Herzog, Terry Gilliam, John Milius, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Kevin Smith, and Herschell Gordon Lewis—but without the madness or conviction to be quite as awful as those talents when they really misfire. Paul Dano plays Hank, a lonely, desperate man marooned on a tiny island and on the verge of suicide. Daniel Radcliffe plays Manny, the farting corpse that washes up on the beach and gives Hank a reason to go on living. The two young men engages in a surreal friendship when Hank discovers that Manny functions like an all-purpose survival tool, providing companionship, as well as drinking water, sharp edges, a sense of direction, and, of course, gas—all of which can help them return to civilization.
This goofy, WFT premise should result in a tedious slog but the two leads are so good, and make such an unlikely but legitimately engaging screen couple, that the movie actually grows on you rather than testing your patience. Unfortunately, the film’s whimsical qualities are overwhelmed by the filmmakers’ overt pretentions. “Daniel” (as these writer/directors are collectively known) obviously think they’re onto something far more deep and substantial than the fanciful, overtly sentimental curiosity they’ve put on screen. You won’t have to try too hard to find an exploration of millennial male confusion, identity angst, and self-pity shallowly concealed behind dick and fart gags; but you will need to try pretty hard to care about any of it.