'Swiss Army Man' Leaps From Realism To Fantasy

Jun 24, 2016
Originally published on June 25, 2016 6:21 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the stranger comedies at Sundance this year will soon be at a theater near you. It's casually known as Daniel Radcliffe's farting corpse movie. The actual title is "Swiss Army Man." In a moment, we'll hear from the film's directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert. First, here's Bob Mondello with his review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hank is shipwrecked on a tiny island and is placing a noose around his neck to end it all when he spots something washed up on the beach. It looks like a person.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SWISS ARMY MAN")

PAUL DANO: (As Hank) Hey, are you OK?

MONDELLO: It is a person. It is, in fact, Daniel Radcliffe. But he's not OK. He's dead. He's also, rather disconcertingly, making noises. We are maybe 12 minutes in as directors Kwan and Sheinert make the leap from realism to fantasy. They have Hank, who's played with a sort of exuberant melancholy by Paul Dano, harness the body's flatulence, riding it as if it were a motor boat from the island to more hospitable shores. There, he discovers the body has as many usefully fantastical properties as a Swiss army knife. It is a source of fresh drinking water and a compass of sorts, using an appendage I can't talk about on the radio. And also, with gas escaping from its mouth as well as from other orifices, Hank starts imagining it might keep him company.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SWISS ARMY MAN")

DANO: (As Hank) Talk to me, please. OK, buddy?

MONDELLO: And he does talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SWISS ARMY MAN")

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Manny) OK, buddy.

DANO: (As Hank, screaming).

MONDELLO: And Hank punches him.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SWISS ARMY MAN")

RADCLIFFE: (As Manny) Why did you hit me?

DANO: (As Hank) I thought you were dead.

RADCLIFFE: (As Manny) Am I dead?

DANO: (As Hank) I don't think so. You're talking. Or I'm just hallucinating from starvation.

MONDELLO: Possible - which does not keep the conversation from going to places most conversations don't, as the once-suicidal Hank explains living to his lifeless buddy. And Radcliffe, by the way, is giving an amazingly physical performance as he's tossed and rolled and jackknifed around. The thing that "Swiss Army Man" makes clear is that it is precisely the things people don't talk about that make life life and worth living. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.