Swiss Army Man (2016)
We all need some body to lean on
When I first heard of this movie, I kinda just passed it off as something that sounded like it would be kinda dumb - certainly not something I'd be spending that theater money on. After some time passed though, I hear some reviews about it and how maybe there might be something more too it - like, some depth of symbolism and the likes. Of course, for me, I cared less about that but what the next lines told me - the movie is a veritable treasure trove of fart jokes. Fart jokes being my funny bone's kryptonite, how could I possibly resist that? Tune in, and let us see if this movie is as much of a gas as it could be.
Well, although consisting of comedy for sure, that was a far deeper movie than one could ever expect after being sold on "there are tons of farts." I mean, sure, you can totally just look at it from face value and enjoy the farts and other at times crude humor (like masturbation and boners), but there's also a surprising amount of tact and commentary going on underneath all of that. Despite having all the farts and jokes and awkward moments though, there is a distinct level of darkness to earn it that R rating though - I mean, the movie starts off with some funny little "message in a battle" creations floating about only to be immediately followed by attempted hanging.
Acting is a very large part of this flick - there's only two people in it, and one of them is dead...or not dead? It's a bit up to debate really, and the ending ten minutes finally pulling in a cast of more than the two people we've spent seventy minutes with is by far the most interaction we have in the movie. That being said, even if one can find some faults in the acting of "you aren't being dead enough for a corpse" they pull it off quite well. By the time things start getting more emotional, you can feel for the characters a bit and really do get the sensation of wanting things to turn out well in the end. There's also jokes that depend a bit on the actors delivery, and thankfully for a good portion of them they are delivered right the way needed to get the full impact. Lines in general are delivered wonderfully by these two main actors, and it adds quite well to the overall film.
The name at first seems like a strange one - considering it's in reference to the farting corpse who is neither Swiss nor appearing to be Army. As things progress though, almost like a game, the man slowly starts developing more and more "powers" or uses if you will - storing water, starting fires, spitting objects out of his mouth at high velocity all just being some of them. It's an interesting take, and sometimes these things - such as the farts - get worked into this moral fiber that makes up an underlying commentary on society that a person could drop into if they so choose. By this point, it's quickly apparent that the man is a corpse version of the Swiss Army knife - a multi-tool of useful items.
An interesting thing that feels very much like it was made on a well-polished shoe-string budget, with a lot of the setting simply being the woods. Could be any woods - your own backyard for that matter - and the costumes all fitting with on screen events (being things like scavenged trash) that carry across little details as things go. It's not going to necessarily jump out as a "effects of the year" award or anything of that sort, but it's shot well and holds together nicely regardless.
Part of that shoestring could also pertain to the music. In this case, however, it's an interesting twist. Whereas most movies seem to be either an orchestral piece or licensed out radio song, this makes an interesting choice of having many arrangements practically just one man a cappella songs. This actually does make the music stand out more than usual, as those overlapping tracks of different vocal sounds start turning into a song - even one as iconic as that of the Jurassic Park theme. Further on, we also get this sing-song narrative ties, where characters will be singing along with events that are happening, ranging from questioning if they are crazy or talking about how their body is now a machine gun. There was one point where I actually started to wonder if the movie was going to suddenly turn into a musical - which it didn't.
It's probably noticeable that I haven't really talked about the plot at all. For what it's worth, in it's simplest form it's about a dude alone on an island who finds this magical corpse washed up on the shore, and then takes it on a journey with him to try and get home. The problem is, and why I largely haven't talked much about the plot, that that feels almost like a side plot. Yes, it's the main driving force for the characters, but it feels far more like the story is about all these things you can perceive from the on screen events and dialogue - ranging from life and death all the way down to masturbation. There's a bit of social commentary in there - on the weird and how being different can make you be perceived as a freak. Again for what it's worth, it's pretty well summarized up in something as basic as the quote "you never fart in front of me," which can have far deeper meanings and usages than one would give it in passing.
I was surprised by this film. I thought I was in it for just fart jokes to get a quick cheap laugh, but I ended up getting a story with deep running roots that could actually get down-right depressing, all the while laughing my face off over the various sounds of butt trumpets and ridiculous over-the-top displays. It can be loud and crude about some of it's thoughts, and maybe not the most eloquent in it's delivery, but it still had more depth than I'd have imagined. The end will have people leaving a slight bit befuddled I imagine, and even I'm not entirely sure what it is I should believe about the rest of the movie after having seen it, but at the very least I don't regret watching this weird, thoughtful little movie.