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Review: ‘Swiss Army Man’ a gassy tale of friendship

Bizarre story about a marooned man and a gassy corpse is confused about what it’s trying to say

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

A marooned man is saved by a gassy corpse in “Swiss Army Man,” a surreal fantasy in need of a rescue itself.

This bizarre little film takes on themes of isolation, father-son relationships and friendship, but loses its way every time it gets close to making a point. Anything it might have said is undone by its preoccupation with bathroom humor and bodily functions, which makes it almost impossible to take seriously. It’s like someone tried baking “Ted’s” sense of humor into an arthouse tale, but never turned on the oven.

We first meet Hank (Paul Dano) on a deserted island as he’s ready to take his own life. That’s when a corpse washes ashore and makes its presence known by letting out a hearty blast of gas. And another one. And so on.

The corpse, whom Hank names Manny, is played by Daniel Radcliffe, and he turns out to be not such a corpse after all. He’s an all-purpose tool who dispenses water, acts as a compass (don’t ask how) and helps Hank find his way back to his life, both physically and spiritually.

Grunting and moaning and, yes, passing gas, Radcliffe is quite good as Hank’s not-quite-dead pal, giving an effective, heartfelt performance in an extremely difficult role.

Writer-director team Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert create a lovely, beguiling world with an impressive visual flair — the film plays like “Weekend at Bernie’s” meets “Be Kind Rewind” — but the Daniels, as they’re collectively called, falter when it comes time to wrap everything up, story-wise.

“Swiss Army Man” leaves an impression, but can’t complete its job. Like Manny, it’s full of hot air.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

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‘Swiss Army Man’

GRADE: C

Rated R for language and sexual material

Running time: 95 minutes