Critics love to complain about cinema's supposed lack of original material, but when they're presented with fresh ideas, they often don't know what to do with them. When the bizarre desert island survival dramedy Swiss Army Man debuted at Sundance earlier this year, for example, it inspired a mass walkout within its first few minutes.
Best known for music videos like Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" and Adult Swim material like The Pound Hole, Swiss Army Man marks the first feature film from directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as DANIELS).
Without giving too much away, it's understandable why less open-minded critics might huff and puff about Swiss Army Man. In it, Hank (Paul Dano) befriends the dead body of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) just as he's about to give up on life. Manny's corpse, it turns out, still has plenty of life in it, which manifests itself in flatulence and boners, among other things.
If DANIELS weren't so strong as directors, the film would've felt like a tossed-off Adam Sandler bit. Rather than sheer idiocy, however, the film opens up a surreal imaginary world, as the pair travel through the forest and embark on some genuine self-discovery. Issues of masculinity, self-esteem and social anxiety manifest themselves through playful banter and genuinely eye-popping visuals. You've truly never seen — or heard: a great deal of care is put into utilizing the most perfect fart sounds throughout — anything like this before.
Swiss Army Man is audacious, absurd and assured. The bodily functions on display might seem like gross-out gags at first, but they serve a far greater purpose, offering a thought-provoking meditation on what it means to be a human being. With this remarkable achievement, DANIELS have quickly established themselves as fresh cinematic voices to carry the torch from Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry.